"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Fateful Decisions

Sometimes we are forced to make difficult decisions that will affect the rest of our lives. Sometimes we are forced to choose a path – not necessarily the easy way, but it is the right thing to do. This happened to Eva, a Jewish woman from Yugoslavia, who lived through the terrible bloodshed of fascism and the beginning of communism. Her story is told in a documentary film, Eva, directed by Avner Faingulernt and Macabit Abramzon. The film, filled with historical sweep and drama tells a story of strength and integrity -- the story of a woman's life intertwined with the upheavals of the 20th century.

Eva's husband believed in the holiness of the communist revolution, and then became a victim of its holy cause. He was accused of being an enemy of the State, and soon thereafter he committed suicide in prison. At the time of her husband's arrest, the communist authorities demanded that Eva denounce him or she would go to prison and lose her 6-year-old daughter. Eva believed that she had to do what was right and that she could not permit herself to be weak. She was forced to make a fateful decision.

Now, years later, living at Kibbutz Sha'ar HaEmekim, Eva has the opportunity to retell her story, and to go back to Yugoslavia to visit the places of her youth, together with her daughter, Tatiana, now a grown woman.

Decisions are not usually so black and white. How often do we look back on our lives and try to reason with ourselves – why did we do this and not that? How would things have been different, if I had chosen a different path?

Fifty years later, Tatiana is still angry that her mother abandoned her and went to prison. Eva's husband was innocent and his name was eventually cleared. Therefore, according to Eva, his innocence justified what she did. If she had denounced her innocent husband, she couldn't have lived with herself. She says honestly that she loved her husband more than her daughter, and she was not capable of denouncing him.

Her going to prison caused terrible suffering and anguish for little Tatiana, who felt abandoned. What would have happened if Eva had been weak, signed the paper denouncing her husband and stayed with her daughter? As the years went on, Eva says her daughter would have resented what she had done to her father, and would have hated her for her weakness. This is not an easy matter and looking back, with the luxury of time, Eva has no regrets but she realizes that her integrity hurt Tatiana very badly.

In order to come full circle and let go of the past, together with her daughter and grand-daughter, Eva goes to visit the island where she was imprisoned by the Communists. In a very moving scene, the three of them throw 19 symbolic stones, representing the 19 months of Eva's imprisonment, into the sea, screaming aloud with each stone, finally shedding the horrors of the past.

Analyzing the choices made by another person, in another time and place – perhaps this can provide each of us with the life experiences and the opportunities to learn from these choices and to better understand what I might have done in Eva's place.

For more information -- Avner Faingulernt, Head of the Film and TV School at Sapir College, avnerf@sapir.ac.il

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