Connect with us


A Golda Meir biopic starring Helen Mirren avoids politics. It premiered as Israel’s government faces widespread scrutiny.



(JTA) — When a film about a group of Israeli youths who visit former concentration camps in Poland premiered on Sunday at the Berlin Film Festival, its Israeli producer took the microphone after the screening to decry the state of his nation. 

“The new far-right government that is in power is pushing fascist and racist laws,” said Yoav Roeh, a producer of “Ha’Mishlahat” (“Delegation”) on stage after the film’s premiere. He was referring to lawmakers in Israel’s government who have long histories of anti-Arab rhetoric and their new proposals to limit the power of the country’s Supreme Court, which critics at home and around the world deem a blow to Israel’s status as a democracy.

“Israel is committing suicide after 75 years of existence,” Roeh added.

The next day brought the premiere of “Golda,” a highly-anticipated Golda Meir biopic starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren about the former Israeli prime minister and her decisions during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Hours earlier, Israel’s government took another step closer to passing its controversial judicial reforms, and when asked about the political situation, Mirren didn’t mince words.

“I think [Meir] would have been utterly horrified,” she told AFP. “It’s the rise of dictatorship and dictatorship was what has always been the enemy of people all over the world and she would recognize it as that.”

That was the heated backdrop for the debut of “Golda,” which will not hit U.S. theaters until August. But an onlooker wouldn’t know that from the film’s own introductory press conference with Mirren, director Guy Nattiv and other stars from the film. The headlines that have emerged from it have been dominated by the film’s place in the “Jewface” debate, about who should play Jewish characters on screen. Mirren is not Israeli or Jewish.

“Let’s say that we’re making a movie about Jesus Christ. Who’s going to play him?” Mirren’s co-star Lior Ashkenazi stepped in to answer in response to a journalist, eliciting laughter from the press corps.

The film is framed by Meir’s testimony to the Agranat Commission, which investigated the lead-up to the war. As the film shows through flashbacks, Meir appears to have not acted quickly enough on Mossad intelligence about a possible attack from Egyptian and Syrian forces. Israeli forces were surprised on the holiday and initially lost ground; both sides lost thousands of troops, and the war is seen as a major trauma in Israeli history — the moment when the state’s conception of its military superiority over its Arab neighbors was shattered. The film is claustrophobic, shot mostly indoors — in bunkers, hospital rooms and government offices — and offers an apt visual encapsulation of the loss the war would bring.

Mirren walks the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival, Feb. 20, 2023. She spent time on a kibbutz in 1967. (Courtesy of Berlinale)

Though Meir has historically been lionized as a tough female hero in the United States and in Jewish communities around the world (even non-Jewish soldiers in Ukraine took inspiration from her in the early days of the Russian invasion last year), her legacy is more complicated in Israel and the Palestinian territories. In addition to being associated with the trauma of the war for many Jewish Israelis, she is remembered as an inveterate enemy by Palestinians.

In recent years, the representation of Meir has shifted more favorably in Israel, said Meron Medzini, Meir’s former press secretary and one of her biographers. He said that historians have begun to view her favorably in comparison to some of the political leaders who followed her.

“I consider the film [‘Golda’] part of this effort to rehabilitate her name,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I think she is now gaining her rightful place in the history.”

“Golda” fits into Medzini’s narrative by emphasizing the intractability and pride of her Cabinet ministers as the prime reasons for Israel’s surprise. It affirms Meir’s honor by portraying her as attempting to protect the ministers from criticism — all men — and to promote national unity. 

At the press conference, Nattiv gave the briefest of nods to Meir’s complex legacy but like Medzini compared her to Israel’s current slate of leaders, who he reserved brief criticism for.

“Golda is not a super clean character in this movie,” said Nattiv, who is best known for directing “Skin,” a 2018 film about a neo-Nazi. “She had her faults. She made mistakes. And she took responsibility, which leaders are not doing today.”  

Meir has long enjoyed a kind of star status in the United States. She was interviewed by Barbra Streisand in 1978, close to the Israeli leader’s death from cancer, for a TV special on Israel’s 30th anniversary.

“She clearly is the great-grandmother of the Jewish people [in the special] and Streisand is very reverential toward her,” Tony Shaw, a history professor at the University of Hertfordshire and the author of “Hollywood and Israel: A History,” said about the Streisand interview. “She just comes across as very humble, slightly out-of-date, out-of-time.”

“Of course, it’s very different from what we now know Golda Meir was really like,” he added, referring to her strong character and political pragmatism, which the film seeks to convey.

Since William Gibson’s critically-panned 1977 play also titled “Golda,” there have been a number of representations of Meir. Most famous among them is Ingrid Bergman’s final performance in “Golda Meir,” a four-hour-long television biopic from 1982. That production “was very much in keeping with Hollywood’s treatment of Israel in that period,” said Shaw, “which was very sympathetic towards Golda Meir, towards Israel and the troubles it was having in the first 30 years of its life.” More recently, Meir appears in Steven Spielberg’s more ambivalent 2005 film “Munich,” in which she helps to recruit the film’s protagonist to track down the figures behind the 1972 Munich Olympics attacks. 

Golda Meir meets with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and troops on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War, Oct. 21, 1973. (Ron Frenkel/GPO/Getty Images)

Nattiv’s work, which has received mixed early reviews, focuses on the war as reflected in Meir’s character, forgoing engagement with broader politics or history.

“My inspiration was ‘Das Boot,’ in the way that she is in the trenches,” said Nattiv, referencing the revered World War II movie from 1981 set in a German U-boat. “She is very alone in the mayhem of war around these men.” 

“This is the Vietnam of Israel,” he explained. “It is a very tough and hard look at the war and every soldier that died…Golda takes it to her heart.” 

Despite the “Jewface” questioning, Nattiv compared Mirren to an “aunt” figure who, for him, had the “Jewish chops to portray Golda.” Mirren explained to the AFP that she has long felt a connection to Israel and to Meir, especially after a stay on a kibbutz in 1967, not long after the Six-Day War, with a Jewish boyfriend. 

“She was at her happiest on the kibbutz actually,” Mirren said. “Their idealism, their dream of the perfect world. And I did experience that which was great.”

Sanders Isaac Bernstein contributed reporting from Berlin.

The post A Golda Meir biopic starring Helen Mirren avoids politics. It premiered as Israel’s government faces widespread scrutiny. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

Continue Reading

Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

Continue Reading


Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News