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A six-hour interview with David Ben-Gurion, one of modern history's greatest leaders, emerges from the obscurity of an archive where it has lain unrecognized for decades. It is 1968, and Ben-Gurion is 82 years old. He lives in the seclusion of his home in the desert, remote from all political discourse, which allows him a perspective on the Zionist enterprise. His introspective soul-searching is the focus of this film, and his reflections provide a surprising vision for today's crucial decisions and for the future of Israel.Written by
"Ben-Gurion, Epilogue" (2016 release from Israel; 70 min.) is a fascinating documentary about Israel's founding father. Prior to the showing of this film (more on that later), Israeli film expert Galit Roichman explained that the documentary makers, while researching material for another film, by happenstance stumbled upon 35 mm reels of a 1968 interview of David Ben-Gurion. However, the sound tapes were missing, and were finally discovered after a long search. Carefully blending sound and images, and adding some further context, the documentary makers finally released this in 2016.
What we end up seeing here is an all-too brief glimpse into Ben-Gurion, interviewed for 6 hrs. in 1968, 5 years after he abruptly resigns and withdraws from Israeli politics and just 4 months after his beloved wife Paula had passed away. At that point, Ben-Gruion lived in the Negev, a barren desert in southern Italy where life was on its own clock (case in point: when the first telephone wires were installed). The interviewer, Clinton Bailey, does not shy away from anything, yet is very respectful in posing the more difficult questions to Ben-Gurion (case in point: the controversial reparation talks with West-Germany in the late 40s). But in the end we marvel at the political savvy and genius that is Ben-Gurion, not to mention utterly down to earth (case in point: doing his daily chores in the Sde Boker kibbutz like everyone else). A sizable chunk of the interview focuses on Ben-Gurion's views on Zionism (and why he claims that he didn't become a Zionist until the mid-1950s). The archive footage of what living in the Negev was like in the late 70s only adds to the intrigue (if that is the right word). Given that there was 6 hours of interview footage, it's a bit surprising that this documentary only lasts 1 hr. and 10 min. but other than that, there is very little to complain about.
I recently saw this film at the 2018 Jewish & Israeli Film Festival here in Cincinnati. The large theater where this was showing was almost a sell-out. The festival's flyer indicates that the film won the 2017 Best Documentary Award of the Israeli Academy, and I can easily see why. If you have an interest in learning more about one of the great political leaders of the 20th century, you won't want to miss this if you have a chance to see it. "Ben-Gurion, Epilogue" is a WINNER.
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