Thursday, December 17, 2020

Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Menachem Begin: Peace and War

I’ve had the privilege of screening a number of selections from the Israel Film Festival, which serves as a showcase for the best Israeli films each year. The 34rd Israel Film Festival takes place online this year from December 13th-27th, 2020.

Menachem Begin: Peace and War
Directed by Levi Zini
Ticket Information

Every political leader has supporters and detractors, and it’s rare to find someone whose every move and act is remembered fondly after their time in office has concluded. Complicated legacies are common, especially if certain political camps embrace some moments positively and see others as detrimental. Governing a nation comes with many challenges, and, even if tremendous consideration goes into a particularly difficult decision, having a firm resolve that it is the correct one is important to maintain an image of confidence and quell questions of competence from those eager and ready to pick apart policy.

Menachem Begin was elected the sixth prime minister of Israel in 1977 after an early start fighting the British as a member of the Haganah and many years in politics as member of the opposition. His participation in the groundbreaking peace treaty brokered by United States President Jimmy Carter with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was considered a monumental controversial accomplishment that has had enduring effects, while his attitude towards the expansion of settlements and the start of the Lebanon War in 1982 are regarded with considerable controversy, creating a cloud of mystery around the true motivations and intentions of the strongly opinionated orator.

This film offers a fascinating deep dive into Begin’s career, interspersing information about his life before the founding of the state of Israel with events that occurred during his leadership of the country. The way that the narrative is built, introducing important factors that may have happened years earlier only when they become relevant, is effective and engaging. There is a good deal of footage of Begin speaking that exists to give insight into his mannerisms and the way in which he defended his positions, and numerous individuals who worked with him complement that picture with their own experiences and memories.

This documentary’s subtitle references the two most lasting accomplishments of the Begin administration, and this film doesn’t offer a concrete conclusion on whether what he did was ultimately good or bad. Instead, it smartly and responsibly assembles a great deal of evidence, anecdotes, and arguments to analyze his lengthy ascent to power and the way in which he wielded it. Among its most poignant moments are those in which he and Sadat manage to see each other as people, reaching across an aisle that neither of their populations seem to fully support crossing to break down barriers perceived by others as unmovable. This film will surely interest those eager to learn more about Israeli history and a fascinating chapter in the Middle East.


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