"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.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Living in the Shadow of the Holocaust

Operation Sunflower, directed by Avraham Kushnir, opens with a suicide bombing and a siren due to the loading of nuclear warheads by Iran.   Most of the film, however, takes place in an historical period --  in the 1950s and early 1960s. As a deterrent against Russia's arming the Arab states and their desire to wipe the state of Israel  off the face of the earth, our first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had the chutzpah and the vision to go after  what he and his colleagues regarded as the perfect insurance plan for Israel's continued existence and he chose the nuclear option. 
The well-known Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon stars as the megalomaniac head of the Mossad who will do anything to obtain the nuclear option for Israel.  He negotiates with the French and the Germans and he organizes a team of Israeli scientists to go to Paris to work on the bomb.  Why do the scientists agree to do this work?  One wants it for his own career advancement.  Another wants it in order to be close to one of the other scientists.  Only the chief scientist seems to have doubts and questions concerning his role in the development of the bomb.  

The film includes a great deal of rhetoric about the post-Holocaust need to create a strong and invincible nation.  This explains why the nuclear option was chosen at that time -- not because Israel wanted to be the aggressor in war against her neighbors, but rather in order to ensure that "it would never happen again."  

Why are some  Israelis still obsessed with this subject -- and why are they making a film about it today?  Not only because Iran is looking to arm itself with nuclear weapons, but because many Israelis still see, in every enemy, Nazis who want  to annihilate the Jewish state.

At the end of the film, when the narrative construct returns to the present day, there is a coup in Iran, forcing those who were loading the nuclear warheads to back down, thus avoiding a nuclear disaster.  Notwithstanding the need to prevent Iran from stockpiling nuclear weapons and the winds of change that are blowing there, I much prefer Eytan Fox's perspective in his film Walk on Water, in which his Mossad killer/main character concludes that he just doesn't want to kill anymore.  In the context of that film, it can be interpreted to mean that he just doesn't want to hunt Nazis anymore.  In addition, we are now a strong and powerful nation and he doesn't want to only see the world through a lens of paranoia.   The main character also states  clearly that you don't have to walk on water.  In other words, it's time to stop our obsession with being super-human and all powerful, and just get on with living a normal life.

Operation Sunflower is available in the U.S. from Israeli Films.

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