Berlin Film Festival Gets Serious, Mostly

Space Nazis Flick Shares Bill With Solid Documentaries

Supremacy in Space: Amid a raft of serious documentaries, the Berlin Film Festival featured ‘Iron Sky,’ a satire about Nazis on the moon.
blind spot pictures
Supremacy in Space: Amid a raft of serious documentaries, the Berlin Film Festival featured ‘Iron Sky,’ a satire about Nazis on the moon.

By A.J. Goldmann

Published March 01, 2012, issue of March 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

After an impressive few years of Israeli films showcased prominently at the Berlin Film Festival, there was a conspicuous dearth of Israeli fare this year. The Berlinale, which ran from February 9 to 19, has a reputation for tackling political issues. This year, it decisively chose to highlight films from hotbed countries, including Egypt, Yemen and Syria, which were supplemented by talks and panels about the impact of the Arab Spring on filmmaking. Programmers went for films that pushed hot political topics, including Alison Klayman’s documentary, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” about the Chinese artist and dissident.

One of the few Israeli productions in the festival selection was Silvina Landsmann’s excellent low-budget documentary, “Bagrut / Lochamim” (“Citizen / Soldier”). Her film, which won a special mention from the Caligari Film Prize, follows a civic education class run by the IDF for soldiers at the end of their military service. The three-week-long course is designed for soldiers who do not yet have a high school certificate. Landsmann’s camera captures the heated debates between the liberal teacher and his students, many of whom hold borderline racist views about their Arab neighbors and, at times, about ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The director herself remains invisible, soberly observing the lively discussions about human rights, the philosophical and practical implications of defining Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state, as well as religious and social tolerance. The decibel level is often one notch below shouting. In this respect, the film can feel like a non-fiction version of the much-lauded 2008 French film “The Class.” But unlike in that film, and possibly due to military discipline, the students here always maintain decorum.

Charismatic, well-spoken and persuasive, the teacher is not interested in preaching, but will keep the conversation going despite the students’ reflexive objections to his assertions of Israeli wrongdoings. The lessons often revolve around history, moral philosophy and political events, and the teacher succeeds in getting his stubborn students to open up and debate the vital issues facing Israel today from less draconian and defensive positions.

If Landsmann errs cinematically, it is in her insistence on focusing on the ever-present guns in classroom, schoolyard and auditorium, unnecessarily hammering home a point that could be made more subtly, about the effects of compulsory military service on Israeli society. Aside from that, her visual instincts are spot on, even when capturing the students outside the classroom, chilling out or getting one-on-one tutoring in Jewish ethics. By using this soldiers’ classroom as a microcosm of Israeli society at large, Landsmann manages to tell an important story from an unusual angle.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.