Free Yom Ha’atzmaut film screening—Tuesday, May 6, 7 pm
In observance of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, in partnership with the Simon Family JCC’s Celebrate Israel series, will present the film The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers. This is the first part of a two-part documentary based on the bestselling book by Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Avner.
The Prime Ministers brings to life some of the most important events of the 20th and 21st centuries as witnessed by Avner, who was chief aide, note-taker and speechwriter to Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres.
Nimrod Erez is the editor and co-producer of both films. The second part is scheduled for release later this year.
Erez works closely with Academy Award winner Richard Trank, The Prime Ministers’ writer, producer and director, in shaping the movie’s narrative and pacing. Additionally, Erez is involved in coordinating research and production, and guiding the overall look of the documentary.
The Jewish News recently asked Erez to provide some insight into what it was like working on these insightful and historical films.
JN: Did you have the opportunity to meet Ambassador Avner? What are your impressions of him?
Yes, I had several chances to meet Yehuda. He was visiting Los Angeles and came to see us here…and [I]met him several more times in Israel while filming interviews, and in New York when promoting the theatrical release of the movie.
Yehuda is the quintessential observer and much to our luck, a wonderful story teller. We had many conversations on topics relating to his career and I am very respectful of his history. He was always happy to share his memories, there’s an educator side to him it seems, which I was very appreciative of.
JN: The film features the voices of Sandra Bullock as Golda Meir, Michael Douglas as Yitzhak Rabin, Leonard Nimoy as Levi Eshkol and Christoph Waltz as Menachem Begin. How do these wellknown Hollywood actors help tell the Ambassador’s story?
Having the four wonderful actors lend their talents to the film is very helpful in the telling of the story. First and foremost they give a personality, or a rendition of a personality, to the cast of characters and with that bring them to life. The first movie relays the story of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir, who both presided before Israeli TV existed and when international news coverage was scant, so there’s few recordings that showcase them speaking—there’s only one recording of Eshkol in the film for example, so to boost their presence and the perception of a character we needed actors—and at Moriah we are extremely lucky and honored that we can attract top Hollywood talents to help with that.
Beyond fleshing out the characters, there’s also the need to break up Yehuda’s interview with other voices and characters, lest we sink into monotony. Because part two deals with stories occurring in the 1970s and 1980s, there’re many more recordings of the characters available and there’s a lesser reliance on actors, although you’ll feel their presence when you watch the film. They give that added sense of drama which helps the movie.
JN: Can you describe some of the footage we’ll see in the documentary? Will we be familiar with all of the images, or are some of them rarely seen?
For the viewers who are avid Israeli history buffs some of the footage will be familiar, but even for them we have some material, both photos and film, that will be new. Even though there’s general interest in Israeli history, there are very few offerings, and therefore few opportunities for the ones who are interested to get their “fix,” so in light of that most viewers will find the archival footage and photos in this film new.
We have footage of Eshkol speaking at the Knesset in the days leading to the 6-Day War which I think most people have never seen, there is also some color footage of the Yom Kippur war filmed by an Israeli soldier in the Sinai front that was just recently discovered and is featured in our film.
JN: What do you think audiences will “take away” from this film? Is it the history they’ll learn? The emotions they’ll witness? The incredible struggles and resilience of the Israelis and their leaders?
I can only say what I hope audiences will take away with them from this film, and my hope is that they gain a new or deeper understanding of the forces and events that shaped history and that they develop an emotional relationship and connection to those events.
My hope is that viewers who are not necessarily big Israel lovers will come to respect this narrative and that it will positively influence their perspective and facilitate an atmosphere of mutual understanding that will make peace between Israel and the Arabs achievable.
by Laine Mednick Rutherford