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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.