Visionary epic poetry rather than historical reconstruction, Kedma opens on a naked woman, about to make love, onboard an overcrowded boat transporting European Jews to Palestine a few days prior to the modern State of Israel’s birth. Amos Gitaï’s bashed/celebrated film is among Israeli cinema’s highest attainments.
Gitaï contrasts the teeming humanity of the “illegal immigrants” and the regimented efficiency of British soldiers (to my ear, at least, following orders delivered in an American accent). In between there is the Haganah, a Jewish military underground, who will help their brothers and sisters as best they can. Few escape. Underfoot for all is hardship: rocky desert attuned to dirge-like music. By dint of history and the Holocaust, this land is Jewish land, but not a caustic pebble of it will come easily. Another obstacle is the past—all the familial and social memories that help oppose a people’s attempt to embrace the future without ambivalence. If ever there were a film that bleeds the heart, this is it.
The Holocaust has given these people a single impetus; but what quarrels! Different languages. “The kibbutz—that’s socialism.” Secularism versus religious observation. “Long live [David] Ben-Gurion.” Response (as the responder gets up and leaves): “Ben-Gurion?” A young cantor is asked why he doesn’t have a beard. He breaks down and cries because he has lost both parents to the Germans. Makes perfect sense to me.
Contentious Israel. Palestinian violence has obscured democratic Israel’s internal squabbles. But manipulation of Palestinian feelings has obscured Arab squabbles. Arabs must love to hate Israel. Their bottom-line hatred of Jews gives them a sense of unity, however artificial that sense may be.
Is there another view? A mad Jewish prophet declares: “We enjoy suffering . . . [g]rief becomes more valuable than joy.”
Makes perfect sense to me.
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.