'Colliding Dreams'': New York Jewish Film Festival Review

Courtesy of Film Society Lincoln Center
Delivers an admirably balanced and comprehensive account of its important subject

Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky's documentary recounts the history of the modern Zionist movement from its late 19th century to the present day

The history of the Zionist movement is recounted in exhaustive and sometimes exhausting fashion in Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky's comprehensive documentary receiving its world premiere at the New York Jewish Film Festival. Detailing the origins of Zionism from the persecution of European Jews in the late 19th century to the events of the present day, Colliding Dreams is a thoughtful and invaluable cinematic document that will prove particularly enlightening for those unwilling to plow through non-fiction tomes about the topic. The film will no doubt receive wide play on the festival circuit before a specialized theatrical release and inevitable cable and public television exposure.

It features a wealth of archival photographs and film footage—the latter often annoyingly featuring time- stamps and other such distractions—as well as the expected panoply of talking heads, including, refreshingly, not just academics and other experts but also ordinary Israeli and Palestinian citizens whose commentary is often far more affecting than the sometimes dry analysis otherwise offered.

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Covering seemingly every aspect of the lengthy, complex tale, the film details the movement's beginnings at the hands of Theodore Herzl, the Austrian journalist who formed the World Zionist Organization promoting Jewish migration to Palestine. Those not already familiar with the history will be fascinated to learn that Great Britain initially offered to establish a Jewish homeland in Uganda. It was a proposition that Herzl wanted to accept, but he was overruled.

In 1917 the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, endorsing the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Instrumental in its passage was the Jewish activist Chaim Weizmann, who would become the leader of the movement and eventually Israel's first president.

After World War II and the atrocities of the Holocaust the movement gathered steam, with the United Nations delivering a proposal partitioning land between the Jews and the Arabs. This inevitably led to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, with violent conflicts striking up on a regular basis ever since.

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Proceeding to cover such subsequent seminal events as the '67 Six Day War (one commentator, describing himself as an atheist, nonetheless declares that "God lived" in that event); the '73 Yom Kippur War; Sadat's peace overture to Israel; and the 1978 Camp David Accords orchestrated by President Jimmy Carter, the film has the occasional feel of an overstuffed textbook. Some judicious editing would have been in order, especially in terms of excising some of the redundant commentary. But it ably fulfills its mission of delivering a comprehensive account of its subject, offering thoughtfully disparate viewpoints along the way. As such, it stands as a significant cinematic achievement.

Directors/screenwriters/producers: Joseph Dorman, Oren Rudavsky
Executive producers: Andrea Miller, Carla Solomon
Director of photography: Oren Rudavsky
Editors: Nick August-Perna, Aaron Kuhn

No rating, 136 min.