|Directed by:||Racheli Schwartz||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||2005||Running Time:||56 mins|
|Language:||Hebrew with English subtitles||Genre:||Documentary|
|More Info:||More About The Film From The Director||Category:||Israel|
A fellow kibbutz member’s suicide prompts the filmmaker to examine the struggles of her decaying community. Taking a thoughtful, personal look at a public issue, Kibbutz documents the Israeli socialist community’s shift towards privatization to reveal idealism’s slow decline into frustration and misery.
“[I’m angry at] the whole kibbutz. In its entirety,” says the man running the laundry mat, wearing a sour expression on his face as he pours detergent. “I’m a patient man,” he continues, “but when I talk about the kibbutz I spit out all the poison.”
First they closed the dairy. Now only the old people go to the dining hall. The orchard, which was once a massive spread of green, has been reduced to brown soil and tree stumps, filled with the buzzing of chainsaws. When Yehuda, a lifelong member of Kibbutz Hulata, lost his job at the citrus grove, he despaired not only for the loss of employment but for the end of life as he knew it – no longer could he depend on his communal home for support and sustenance. Unable to bear the precarious future, Yehuda took his own life, hanging himself from a tree overlooking the field on which he longed to work. His death became a symbol of the larger story of Kibbutz Hulata’s tragic decline.
Yehuda’s suicide also prompted a personal crisis for filmmaker Racheli Schwartz, changing her understanding of life on the kibbutz. Not only did privatization suddenly have extreme consequences but, she says, his death also made her “afraid to stay [on the kibbutz] and feel responsible for other people’s lives.” It seems that she suddenly realized the pressure of communal living. When everyone is healthy and happy it’s easy to assume responsibility for the well being of those around you. But when people are struggling, taking responsibility for them becomes a great deal of pressure — it’s hard enough to just fend for oneself.
More than just an economic change, the privatization of the kibbutz became a quite literal cultural transformation, privatizing people’s daily lives. The houses on the kibbutz are now separated by tall shrubbery: people who once wanted to share everything with their community now cling to their immediate families and the little money they have left to themselves, while snatching at any privacy that they can get.
Yet most of Hulata’s residents still hold tight to memories of the warm, family-like community they enjoyed in the past. A music teacher talks about how much the children of the kibbutz used to love performing for the community. They were proud of their own accomplishments, but even more excited to share something with the people around them.
Kibbutz offers a more complex look at socialism, however, than the simple argument that capitalism overtook Israel and ruined everything. Despite the people’s idyllic memories and nostalgic longing for the past, things were never perfect financially, the film reveals. “In economic terms there were screw-ups,” one man admits. “We ran things like amateurs.” Another man argues that the kibbutz simply didn’t have “enough talented people to deal with large amounts of money.” Someone who had taken a quick course on business would be allowed to handle a 100-million shekel deal. And when — not surprisingly — poor decisions were made, they hurt everyone.
And not everyone agrees that the old way of doing things was necessarily better on the socially either. Three old women whose friendship has spanned decades on the kibbutz, express their ambivalence as to whether family life was better in the past or present. All three women regret not having spent more time with their children: the communal child-rearing principles of the socialist days forced parents and children to sleep apart and allowed mothers only twenty minutes at a time with their babies, to breast feed. One woman says that she realizes now that it’s not socialist blood that runs through her veins but the blood of her parents and grandparents.
Ultimately, she suggests, family trumps politics.
Thoughtful and nuanced in its explorations, Kibbutz resists outright mourning for the pure socialism of the original kibbutz movement, recognizing that the struggle to create something better is never easy, and that no system is perfect.