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Besa: The Promise (2012)

God's House (original title)
Besa: The Promise Poster
2:30 | Trailer
When the Nazis occupied Albania, not a single Jew was betrayed by its citizens - mostly Muslims. An untold history that resonates today.


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Credited cast:
Norman H. Gershman ...
Norman H. Gershman
Rexhep Hoxha ...
Rexhep Hoxha


Besa: The Promise is the remarkable story of the Muslim men and women of Albania who saved the lives of nearly 2,000 Jews during World War II. Their stories are told through the prism of two men, one an Albanian Muslim, the other an American Jew, and the different, but equally remarkable journeys, that each must undertake. Written by CSR

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Plot Keywords:

jew | muslim | albania | nazi | promise | See All (8) »


How many people would lay down their lives for a stranger?



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Release Date:

19 July 2012 (USA)  »

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Besa: The Promise  »

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User Reviews

Outstanding documentary will surprise and move you
19 February 2014 | by (Cincinnati) – See all my reviews

"Besa: The Promise" (2012 release; 90 min.) retells the real life events of a slice of WWII history that not nearly enough people know about (and that includes me, until I saw this documentary recently): families in Albania taking in Jewish refugees, at the risk of their own families. Before you say, "so what, many families across Europe did so too", you need to know that Albania is primarily a Muslim country. Comments someone at one point: "If 10 Albanians provide refuge, 7 out of them are Muslim and the other 3 are either Catholic or Orthodox". As the documentary opens, we get to know Norman Gershman, an elder Jewish American who comes across this story and decides that this is what he needs to do with his life. He goes to Albania and starts interviewing people, documenting their stories for history's sake. We also get to know one particular Albanian Muslim family, who sheltered a Jewish family during WWII. As it happens, now all these years later, the Albanian family still holds 3 precious books (the Torah, we learn later) and wants to return the books to the Jewish family they helped 60 years earlier. Will the two families reconnect? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: first and foremost, this documentary confirms once again that if you have a compelling story to tell, facts always trump fiction, reason why I love to watch documentaries. Second, there seems to be an on-going debate as to what exactly the meaning of "Besa" really is. Watching this documentary, it appears to have two (perhaps related?) meanings: (i) it is in Albania's cultural tradition to provide help to a stranger, no matter who, and (ii) if you have made a promise (in this case: return the books to the Jewish family), you must fulfill the promise, no matter how difficult or how long it takes. Third, it would be misleading to generalize what happened in Albania to other Muslim-dominated countries, as it appears that this was a uniquely Albanian situation (that does not mean that there aren't good people in other Muslim countries, of course). Last but certainly not least, the music score is from none other than Philip Glass, yes THE Philip Glass. I don't know whether the score is original or if it is culled from existing Glass works, but regardless, it plays beautifully and prominently almost non-stop the entire movie.

"Besa: The Promise" is a surprising and moving documentary that should be required viewing in all high schools and even junior high schools, as it teaches important life lessons to young and old alike, and it documents a forgotten but important "detail" from WWII. I saw this documentary recently at the 2014 Jewish & Israeli Film Festival here in Cincinnati, and the screening I saw this at was sold-out, I am happy to say. Wish this documentary could get a broader audience. "Besa: The Promise" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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