CAPSULE: In an autobiographical interview, Yehuda Avner, advisor to four Israeli Prime Ministers, gives an inside look at the first two Prime Ministers he served and of the politics of the country at the time. (A sequel documentary being made will continue Avner's account.) In what is hardly sufficient time, Avner gives the viewer a feel for the characters and the political policies of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir. While the information is of definite interest, much will already be familiar for some viewers. Co-author and director Richard Trank makes an understandable but serious error in having overly familiar celebrities voicing some of the words of the Prime Ministers. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
We recently saw the film LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER, one man's inside look at the leaders and politics of his country during the time he served in the White House. In many ways THE PRIME MINISTERS is a very similar film. Yehuda Avner was an advisor to Israeli Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and Menachem Begin. His fluency in both English and Hebrew and his political understanding made his services valuable at several historical events.
The film takes the form of one long interview with Avner giving his recollections of the major milestones of Israeli history from before declaring independence to Golda Meir resignation after she was accused of mishandling the nation's defense in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Particular attention is given to Avner's memories of the day Israel was formed, the Pioneer Movement, and the two major wars: the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Avner discusses what went on with negotiations for support with Presidents Truman, Johnson, and Nixon. Included are not just his observations on the major political changes, but small and personal moments that make the politicians seem more human.
THE PRIME MINISTERS is co-written by Richard Trank (who also directs) and Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Center's Museum of Tolerance, and of Moriah, the Center's filmmaking production company. The latter produced this film. However, the film makes a jarring stylistic error. The film has celebrities voicing the Prime Ministers, just where actual recordings were non-existent or not available. Levi Eshkol is voiced by Leonard Nimoy, Golda Meir by Sandra Bullock, Yitzhak Rabin by Michael Douglas, and Menachem Begin by Christoph Waltz. To see Golda Meir on the screen and to hear an all too easily visualized Sandra Bullock cast way against type pulls the viewer right out of the narrative. Making it worse we heard Meir speak with her real voice minutes before. It is hard to hear the two voices as coming from the same person. And when the viewer hears Bullock's voice it is hard not to see Bullock. Much the same goes for the other three celebrities. Perhaps these four popular actors add some "marquee value" to the film, but less familiar voices might have worked much better for the film.
Director Trank's style had developed since directing last year's IT IS NO DREAM: THE LIFE OF THEODOR HERZL. This film is has a more engaging style and Avner's comments on history are of definite interest.
THE PRIME MINISTERS: THE PIONEERS covers the terms of Eshkol and Meir. Rabin and Begin do appear, but are not covered as Prime Ministers. This is really just the first half of a two-part documentary. Trank is working on a second part covering the terms of Rabin and Begin. The two probably should be seen as a pair. For now I rate the first half a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3228928/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_prime_ministers_the_pioneers/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper