DAVID BEN-GURION’S STATURE in Israeli society is so great that he is above politics, a description that comes an ultra-right wing Minister at the opposite end of the Israeli political spectrum from the visionary Labor leader who declared Israel’s independence in 1948.
This was one of the many insights provided by director Yariv Mozer into the impact of his award-winning documentary, Ben-Gurion, Epilogue, which screened to a sold-out audience at the Jewish International Film Festival in Sydney on Sunday night.
When Bennett saw the film, an edited version of six hours of footage of the statesman, made by a British film unit in 1968 but lost for 40 years, he was so taken with the gravity and power of Ben-Gurion’s thoughts and wisdom, that he had no qualms about crossing party lines to endorse the film across the Israeli education system.
Mozer was speaking in a Q & A after the screening of his film, and also spoke at the Melbourne screening last night, and will do so on Thursday night in Canberra. His visit to Australia, and the film screenings, were sponsored by Plus61J.
Mozer stumbled across the interviews with co-producer Yael Perlov quite by chance three years ago. They were abandoned on a shelf at the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University 40 years ago but they did not have a soundtrack. Mozer had to hunt that down by finding the sound recordist from the original interviews.
Mozer told the audience that for all his combative wisdom and gravitas, Ben-Gurion tended to ramble on in his answers, which highlighted the skill that went into distilling them into the pithy, compelling answers seen in the film.
Mozer and his partner trawled through over 70 archives worldwide “to gather every piece of Ben-Gurion on camera” to make sure they knew exactly what was fresh, unknown and worth including.
Footage includes the nimble octogenarian performing his famous headstands, sitting beside Ray Charles at the piano, and even kitted out in a longyi on a state visit to Burma in 1961. Later this year, however, in the run-up to Israel’s 70th anniversary, longer segments of the interview will be uploaded according to various themes onto the documentary’s website.
Mozer’s film won Best Documentary at this year’s Ophir Awards, Israel’s equivalent of the Oscars. The awards ceremony was controversial because Israeli’s Culture Minister Miri Regev was not invited following her decision to walk out of a performance at the 2016 awards by an Arab-Israeli rapper.
Since then Regev has been outspoken in condemning other artistic projects that displayed criticism of Israel or sympathy for Palestinians, and threatened to withdraw funding from a theatre company that produced Israeli-Palestinian collaborations.
However, when Mozer was asked after Sunday night’s screening if he experienced any political pressure to censor or otherwise change what he wanted to include in the film, or in other projects, the director was adamant that he did not. “Israel is a democracy and I was free to work in the way I wanted to,” he replied.
Photos: Shahar Burla (Plus61J) with Yariv Mozer (right) (Uri Windt)
INTERVIEW WITH YARIV MOZER
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