|Directed by:||Amos Gitai||Rating:||TV-MA|
|Release Date:||2002||Running Time:||94 mins.|
|Language:||Hebrew, Arabic & English (subtitles)||Genre:||Drama|
|More Info:||Nominated at the Cannes Film Festival and won an award from Israeli Film Academy||Category:||Feature Films|
Israel is a nation born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, argues director Amos Gitai, and that legacy forces one to examine the destruction that is part of the Jewish State’s creation. The visually-dazzling Kedma reveals the controversy behind this history through the story of a ship of Holocaust survivors who arrive in the Holy Land to build a new nation.
“Oppression, slander, persecution [and] martyrdom,” is the history of the Jewish people, says one refugee. Indeed, he says, “I’d make it forbidden to teach our children Jewish history,” which he asserts is a history with “no glory, no acting, no heroes, no conquerors, just poor wretches . . . always begging for their lives.”
Kedma focuses on the struggles for this group of Holocaust survivors who come to a pre-Israel Palestine to secure their future and the future of a new nation — even as they are haunted by their past. Weighed down by memories of loved ones lost, and of a world forever destroyed, the refugees try to set aside their fears and pain in order to engage with the struggle for statehood. Theirs is a struggle for survival as they battle for the road to Jerusalem. In the process, the men and women of Kedma question the relevance of their personal and collective histories, and are forced to consider the role of God and religion in a post-Holocaust Jewish nation.
Among Israel’s leading filmmakers, Gitai has devoted much of his career to exploring important themes in contemporary Judaism. In Kedma, he tries to understand and convey the story of the birth of the Jewish State amid the rebirth of the Jewish people after their near-annihilation in the Holocaust. In the process, he explores the complex set of emotions, questions and doubts that accompanied this story of renewal for the individuals who were part of the rebuilding of a nation and a homeland.
From the beginning, the refugees are confronted by enemies in their homeland, both foreign and native-born. As they disembark on the beaches of Palestine, they are met by enemy fire from British soldiers. Then, as they move through the hills and deserts of Palestine, they battle with Arab villagers whose presence poses a real threat to the formation of a Jewish State in the Jewish homeland.
But perhaps no enemy is so great, so formidable and so elusive as is history itself. Tragic memories threaten to overshadow and undermine a viable future for the Jewish people as a free, autonomous nation. Among these refugees of the Holocaust, there is a sense that in order to be reborn as a new nation unfettered by the chains of the past, they must reinvent themselves and reject a history that values faith above doing whatever it takes to survive and prosper.
“If you want to live you have to forget — if you want to survive you have to forget,” says one refugee.
But not everyone can forget. Menachem, a young, Yiddish-speaking cantor, can’t forget the parents and siblings who perished at the hands of the Nazis. Nor can Menachem forget about God, even in reflecting on His absence during the slaughter of European Jewry. “I don’t understand. If God loves us so much, where was He when they were killing us in the camps?” Menachem asks. Gitai’s film forces the viewer to examine how such a God could possibly return to be part of the founding of Israel.
Kedma offers only a glimpse into the struggles of survivors building the Jewish State. But the questions it raises about history, memory and religion speak to the global and eternal quandaries of the Jewish people and the Jewish State, and the effort of continually redefining the meaning of identity, loyalty and faith.