This sweeping historical survey automatically limits its audience to diehard history buffs by exclusively assuming the perspective of former ambassador Yehuda Avner, who died in March. Avner, a charming diplomat who advised prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin, tells the history of Israel’s major political developments through the myopic lens of his personal experience.
Since his memories are largely episodic, the sizable gaps in Avner’s narrative make it hard to appreciate his storytelling gifts. First he talks about being presented with an extravagant, whipped-cream-topped plate of cottage cheese at a White House dinner during the Ford administration. Then Avner discusses Rabin’s begrudging respect for Henry Kissinger, but only after he touches on the Entebbe crisis. After that, he recalls how put off the Israelis were when Jimmy Carter suggested that they attend peace talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Before you know it, Avner and Begin are sitting down with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat for the Camp David Accords.
While the jerky pacing of The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers doesn’t get really manic until Begin’s wife dies, the film’s incessant voiceover narration does often feel like an interminable suppertime history lesson delivered by your favorite poli-sci-obsessed granduncle.
Viewers will inevitably find Avner’s amiable rambling somewhat boring, but only after zoning out and subsequently tuning back in when Avner reveals he was once the Israeli ambassador to Australia, or when he remembers the assassination of Sadat. If you can focus on his narcotizing voice, you will learn some interesting trivia about the people who decided Israeli policymaking, and almost nothing else about the history of Israeli politics.
The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers
Directed by Richard Trank
Opens October 9, AMC Loews Village 7
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 6, 2015