8.2/10
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2 user 1 critic

Besa: The Promise (2012)

God's House (original title)
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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.

Director:

Rachel Goslins
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Cast

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

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) »

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


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Details

Official Sites:

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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 July 2012 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Besa: The Promise See more »

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Color
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User Reviews

 
An amazing story of humanity and WWII finally being told
21 April 2014 | by Lowbacca1977See all my reviews

During World War II, thousands of Jews in Europe found an ally that many would not expect; Albanian Muslims. In Albania, besa represents the concept of helping someone that knocks on your door and a high treatment of guests and occurs on a large scale cultural level. In WWII, that came to include many Jews who were fleeing the Nazis, and were aided by the king of Albania opening the country to Jews from throughout Europe with no questions asked. Many took shelter with Albanian families that risked everything for strangers.

The film initially follows a Jewish-American photographer who has been trying to document the remaining people in Albania that helped Jews at great risk, both in the context of remembering their aid to Jews in WWII, and in recognition of these pure acts of humanitarian goodwill that Muslims carried out at great risk at a time when the religion faces vilification. This part may be the one weakest part, as it follows just enough of an introduction that I'd rather keep to the focus than redirect into talk of New York and the like, and get to the heart of the matter.

Once the film transitions to Albania, it really becomes an amazing set of stories, as it features interviews both with those in Albania that helped Jews, and the Jews that were helped discussing the great lengths that people went to to help them. It's incredibly powerful to see how strong the emotions are on both sides of this, as to some extent it becomes evident that with the time involved, these people began to view these strangers they were with as close friends, or even family, because of the strong bonds that formed. It really is a testament to humanity.

The main focus finally becomes the concept of besa, of a promise that is made, and the way that Albanians treat guests. In particular, the son of a man that sheltered a family carries his father's responsibility to return some books the family had to leave behind when they fled Albania and never returned for them. There's a very powerful optimism to it, and an amazing sense of doing what is right, no matter the difficulties involved.

The film is very well put together and certainly ends on a powerful last several minutes. I do hope that some other footage apparently taken of other people, beyond this main focus, becomes available to further flesh out the stories, but I very much like that the film itself merely frames the stories, for the most part it doesn't try to provide any of the context, and leaves that to the people that experienced this, or were told about it from parents.

There have been a great many stories told about people's actions during WWII, and this is one set of stories whose time is long overdue, but they've been told beautifully and powerfully.


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