The circumstances of Israel’s founding remain a divisive issue, but you’d never know it from watching It Is No Dream, Richard Trank’s doc about the life of Zionist leader Theodor Herzl. Set against a backdrop of fin de siècle European anti-Semitism, the film traces an uncomplicated narrative in which a secular Jewish journalist is inspired by both pogroms and more casual bigotry to devote his life to the establishment of a Jewish state. As it concludes with the posthumous vindication of Herzl’s dream (i.e., the 1948 establishment of Israel), the doc conspicuously ignores the larger issues surrounding the displacement of the majority Arab population then living in Palestine, ceding the final word to current Israeli president Shimon Peres. Setting aside this significant sin of omission, though, Trank’s doc registers as an informative if aesthetically static recounting of its subject’s life. Because the director is forced to rely on lots of archival still photographs and present-day video footage of historical locales, and because he couples this with a staid string score and a somewhat soporific narration by Ben Kingsley, the film doesn’t exactly sizzle, but it does manage to provide a straightforward (if perspective-challenged) biographical sketch of a major historical figure.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 8, 2012