‘Rabin in His Own Words’ Lets an Icon Remind Us of His Humanity


Yitzhak Rabin has often been treated as an icon, but rarely allowed to be just a man, so wrapped up are his life and story in the founding of the state of Israel, where he served two terms as Prime Minister and was assassinated in 1995. Erez Laufer seeks to change that in his new documentary, Rabin in His Own Words, structuring the film on the twin pillars of chronology and archival recordings of Rabin’s voice.

Rabin is not only a white-haired politician seeking peace at all costs, shaking hands with Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Yasser Arafat. Early in the film he’s laughing with his wife, who tells the interviewer more about her first meeting with Rabin than he’d like the world to know. Rabin is young and freckled, joining the army and facing down personal financial scandal in the public eye. He’s surprisingly funny — and Laufer asks the viewer to listen to him, long and hard. Laufer introduces captions that announce the historical events Rabin experienced — the founding of the state, the 1967 war, and the First Intifada, to name a few — and the litany of struggles is exhausting, almost unbelievable. Yet here is one of many men who lived through it all.

The documentary briefly veers into tired territory when Rabin’s voice disappears and triumphal singers fill the screen, but Rabin’s consistent, thoughtful self-criticism and colorful storytelling animate what might otherwise be a pat, or at least familiar, history of Israel in the 20th century. By making it specific, Laufer makes it new. 

Rabin in His Own Words

Directed by Erez Laufer

Menemsha Films

Opens May 6