Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Golda

I’m delighted to be returning for the seventh time to cover the Other Israel Film Festival, which features a diverse crop of Israeli and Palestinian cinema and is hosted by the JCC Manhattan. The 14th Annual Other Israel Film Festival runs virtually December 3rd-10th, 2020.

Directed by Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir, and Shani Rozanes
Ticket Information

Israel has only existed as a country for fewer than seventy-five years, and over the course of that time, has not had many prime ministers. Five leaders – David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, and the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – have been elected to separate non-consecutive terms. Their legacies are full of important moments in Israel’s brief but very storied history, and, particularly for the earliest holders of the office, involve international influences in place before Israel was declared a state. One of the most famous among them was Golda Meir.

Meir was born in 1898 in Kiev and grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She moved to what was then Palestine with her husband in 1921 and was an influential figure in Israeli politics, serving as the Minister of Labor and Foreign Minister, among other positions. When Levi Eshkol died of a heart attack in 1969, Meir, who had retired, was chosen to become Prime Minister. Her turbulent five years leading the country are explored in this documentary, which includes footage recorded after an aired interview shortly before her death from lymphoma in 1978 that finds her discussing much more openly and casually her true thoughts on Israel and the decisions she made in its stewardship.

This film offers a remarkable window into the way that Meir thought, showing her facial expression and her body language as she gave interviews and smoked a signature cigarette between carefully-calculated and direct words. The demeanor she has when the cameras stop broadcasting isn’t remarkably changed, but she does see an opportunity to address that which she may have been less willing to clarify knowing how it might be perceived. She is someone who, throughout her life, put tremendous consideration into all of her personal and political moves whose effects and consequences she knew would be remembered.

Meir’s time in office coincided almost perfectly with that of U.S. President Richard Nixon’s, and while Meir also resigned, that significant act was not treated with widespread condemnation. Her attitude in conversations that follow her term does not involve a staunch protest against unfair treatment, but instead a defense of what motivated her to do them and what she has seen come about as a result, not to mention what could have been had she done nothing. As assembled here, that footage and the interviews conducted with people who interacted with her during her life proves extremely insightful and informative, painting a picture of a leader combating impressions imposed upon her as a woman in a position of power whose resolve never wavered despite considerable turmoil during the most formative years of her career.


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