Monday, May 2, 2016

Erez Laufer's RABIN IN HIS OWN WORDS gives us exactly that -- with excellent visuals, too

This seems to be the year of Yitzhak Rabin, movie-wise, at least, as we now have two fine films that feature this hero of Israel and that country's public figure most dedicated to seeking a lasting peace among Israel and its neighbors: Amos Gitai's combo doc/narrative, Rabin: The Last Day, and now Erez Laufer's more personal documentary, RABIN IN HIS OWN WORDS. Do we really get this man's actual words over an entire movie? Absolutely -- along with accompanying and mostly quite appropriate visuals.

Rabin was a highly intelligent man, a gifted writer given to a lot of personal musings, and so we have a collection of letters, speeches, and other recorded history in which we hear him and are made conscious of his ideas and beliefs on a range of subjects. Filmmaker Laufer, shown at left, has done a commendable job of weaving all this together in a time line that goes from Rabin's early family history through his service in the military, his courtship and marriage, his two rounds as the country's Prime Minister and his eventual assassination -- which Laufer does no more than mention. (We get plenty of 'the end' from Gitai's film.)

The manner in which the movie-maker presents all this, however, gives us the most complete picture I've yet seen of Rabin and his dedication and importance to his country. Yes, the film is pro-Rabin, as I think any intelligent and humane viewer today would also be. But the beauty of the documentary lies in how it enfolds us in the personality, psychology and humanity of its subject.

The film is full of so many specifics of the leader's life -- from how he and his father were placed in a detention camp by the British to the manner in which he handled the would-be "scandal" about his wife having a bank account here in the U.S. (after the time in which Rabin served as Ambassador to the U.S.).  Along the way we see the early Moshe Dayan (without eye patch), learn of the death of Rabin's stern but much loved mother, and discover how this military commander felt about having, at the time of Israel's problematic birth, to send 15- and 16-year-old boys off to fight. There is even a moving love letter to his wife, Leah, after 24 years of marriage. And -- oh, yes -- this guy was quite a smoker, too.

Watching the film is very like reliving an enormous amount of history-making moments from the past half-century (many of them involving, gosh, Yasser Arafat). Rabin's take on America's involvement in Vietnam is short and priceless, and his opposition to the Israeli "settlements" (he explains that ensuring the safety of some of these settlement families could cost as much as $250,000 each) makes sense from perspectives both moral and practical.

This is an eye-opening, sometimes amusing, finally very moving tribute to an Israeli who did all he could toward hastening peace. As we hear him say at one point, "I have no doubt that the risks of peace are a thousand times preferable to the bitter certainty of war." Would that current Israeli leaders shared that view.

Rabin in His Own Words -- a gift from Menemsha Films and running 100 minutes -- opens this Friday, May 6, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal, and here in South Florida at five locations: in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theaters, in Delray Beach at the Movies of Delray, in Lake Worth at the Movies of Lake Worth, and in Tamarac at The Last Picture Show. In the weeks and month to come, I hope the documentary will find its way to other cities across country. You can click here and scroll down to follow any further scheduled playdates. 

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