A little more than twenty years after the death of Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s now-deceased former prime minister, a new documentary coming out today attempts to give him a voice, to let him speak, and describe, the events that shaped both his personal life and that of his country. As “Rabin in his own words” shows Rabin, that most formidable of statesmen, started out working on a farm, like the country’s first settlers in the thirties, then joined the country’s defense forces–a requirement of all Israeli citizens–and rose up in the ranks, eventually making Army Chief of Staff. After retiring from the Israeli Defense Forces in the late sixties Rabin got named as ambassador to the U.S., eventually joining the political arena and becoming prime minister in 1974. Through a force of conviction and great vision, Rabin helped guide the state of Israel from its creation until his tragic death in 1995 at the hands of an assassin. After watching this documentary I asked myself: what would Rabin think of that country’s current leaders?
“Rabin in his own words” was directed by Erez Laufer, a film professional who co-edited films by none other than Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker, and also Laura Poitras).
The thrust behind filming “Rabin in his own words” was to do away with the talking heads that punctuate many historical documentaries with their remarks and put Rabin front and center, to allow him to tell his own story. What is especially compelling about “Rabin in his own words” is the wealth of documentation that’s available. Laufer uses a lot of archival footage of Rabin shot on a super 8mm camera. He also got a hold of letters which Rabin had written to his father and to his wife, Leah Rabin. In one key portion of the film, Rabin discusses his feelings about Arabs being expelled from the country in 1948, a text that had been written for an autobiography planned by Rabin in 1979 but that never saw light of day because of its perceived threat potential against Israel.
The existential scope of “Rabin in his own words” appears to show that the big-thinking that prevailed during Rabin’s time and that tended towards the self-evident common goal of a two-state solution to the Gordian knot of Jews and Arabs living together, is truly of a bygone era.
What would Rabin do if he were alive today? If Rabin entered politics in 2016, a man driven by idealism and a strong sense for what Israel must accomplish, what would become of the ongoing Arabo-Israeli conflict?
Israel’s current leaders, Bibi Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett, have capitalized on the Palestinian people’s terrorist attacks–small and desperate, yet able to inflict damage and death–on Israelis’ lives to promote a platform based on paranoia and a hatred of the other. Netanyahu and Bennett have caused ever-growing divisions within Israeli society by adopting such extremist stances.
“Rabin in his own words” is a living, breathing document about one of Israel’s better leaders, a war hero who witnessed the birth of Israel and left, in his wake, after the terrible assassination that took his life, a void whose emptiness we can still feel today. Indeed, the film seems to be asking us: where would we be, where would the world be today if Rabin had stayed alive longer?
Opens today in the following theaters: Lincoln Plaza Cinema (New York), Laemmle’s Royal (L.A.), Living Room Theaters FAU (Boca Raton, Fl.), Movies of Delray (Delray Beach, Fl.), Movies of Lake Worth (Lake Worth, Fl.), The Last Picture Show (Tamarac, Fl.)
On May 13th the film will be shown at Laemmle’s Town Center 5 in Encino, Calif.
“Rabin in his own words” won Best Documentary at Haifa International Film Festival 2015