Israeli director Amos Gitai's startling new film about the difficult birth of the state of Israel opens with faint hope for a desperate people, and ends with a howl of mad despair. The year is 1948, and the freighter Kedma is slowly making its way across the Mediterranean. Packed on board are several hundred exhausted Holocaust survivors, now drifting like Europe's unwanted flotsam toward the one place that might finally offer them a safe haven: Palestine, which is only days away from being divided into a Jewish homeland. Waiting for them on shore, however, is a garrison of British soldiers prepared to arrest the illegal immigrants the minute they step ashore. Also waiting are members of the Palmach, the underground Jewish defense organization, who are ready to whisk the new arrivals away to the safety of a kibbutz. As the passengers disembark, British soldiers open fire, dispersing the crowd; only a few manage to escape with the Palmach. Their journey, however, is far from over, and they soon learn there's war in Palestine as well: Jerusalem has been under siege ever since the UN announced its support of Palestine's division in December 1947, with Arabs and Jews battling over the roads leading into the city. Led into the hills, the newest Israelis encounter groups of Arabs who, fearful of a Jewish onslaught, have begun fleeing their homes. The dissonance that will characterize the next 50 years of Israel's history is already in place, as Arabs accuse Jews of stealing their birthright and one Jew picks up a rock, primed to defend his promised land. Gitai has previously dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in such powerful documentaries as HOUSE (1980) and its sequel, A HOUSE IN JERUSALEM (1998). Here he uses fictionalized characters to dramatize historical reality, and while minimalist in its presentation, the film becomes nearly operatic in its intensity. At the film's climax, the refugees, many of whom survived camps, ghettos and battlefields while millions around them perished, find themselves fighting total strangers and dying in a foreign land they thought would become their home. In a moment of terrible epiphany, Janusz (Andrei Kashkar), a refugee from the Lodz ghetto, understands the fate of the Jewish people, and a terrifying vision of Israel's blood-soaked future quite literally drives him mad.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: Israeli director Amos Gitai's startling new film about the difficult birth of the state of Israel opens with faint hope for a desperate people, and ends with a howl of mad despair. The year is 1948, and the freighter Kedma is slowly making its way across t… (more)