‘The Prime Ministers’: Remembering pillars of Israel’s past | 2½ stars

Updated: 2013-11-07T04:23:14Z


The New York Times

Not rated | Time: 1:54

This fall is the 40th anniversary of the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel, and the analysis of that conflict continues to this day.

The war is one of many challenges to the fledgling state of Israel examined in “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers,” a vivid insider’s perspective based on Yehuda Avner’s memoir.

Director Richard Trank did a thorough job compiling historical footage, and Avner, a former Israeli diplomat and adviser, is our avuncular guide. As a translator and speechwriter, he still, at 84, seems honored to have had a perch so close to the pioneers of the subtitle: Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Levi Eshkol and Menachem Begin. But it is jarring to hear actors like Sandra Bullock (as Meir) and Leonard Nimoy (as Eshkol) give voice to these figures in letters and speeches because the film includes clips of the politicians in their own voices.

Avner’s recollections are political and personal: Eshkol was fond of Yiddishisms; Rabin lacked diplomatic acumen but softened when at home; Meir “could give orders that would have broken others.” He recalls President Lyndon B. Johnson’s negotiation strategy at his ranch: the “six-foot-plus Texan” sat up high in a rocking chair while everyone else sank into the cushions of a plush couch.

This first of two releases by Moriah Films, a division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is nearly two hours long. (The second part is due early next year.) A bit overstuffed with history and tales of perseverance, the film doesn’t have room for balanced political analysis or even exposition at times. It’s an omission that feels like a missed opportunity, but maybe that will be resolved in the next installment.

(At Screenland Crown Center.)

| Nicole Herrington, The New York Times

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