|Directed by:||Ronit Weiss Berkowitz||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||2001||Running Time:||52 mins.|
|Language:||Hebrew (English subtitles)||Genre:||Documentary|
|More Info:||All about Israel's Air Force||Category:||Israel|
Pilots in the Israeli army are so highly esteemed that young men and women are willing to subject themselves to days of torturous drills and exercises for a chance at flying planes. Reach For The Sky follows one group of hopefuls as they suffer through never-ending runs and midnight push-ups to prove they’re tough enough to hack it in the Air Force.
“I see planes in the sky and I want to be there,” one young woman explains, “helicopters hover in the air, and I think it’s the coolest thing ever.”
A documentary about strength and self-determination, Reach For The Sky shows how a group of seemingly average high school graduates are molded into obedient soldiers, capable of enduring extreme physical pain. But, despite all their hard work, only some of them will become pilots. The rest will go home disappointed.
Reach For The Sky explores how the sexes deal with the stress of the competition differently. While the young men try to outdo each other, the young women all try to cooperate. When the males are given a group exercise, they’re loud and bossy and try to get themselves noticed – “tiger types,” their commander calls them. The female camp, however, operates on the underlying hope that they’ll all be selected together. In stark contrast to the hubbub that arises when the young men are asked to work together, the young women collaborate calmly, as a team, listening to each other and making gentle suggestions.
Every grueling day that makes their muscles ache and brings them to tears of exhaustion is a test of the young men and women’s will, but one drill especially separates out the weak from the strong — an endless run up and down one hill known as “the Trig.” The young hopefuls start off in a sprint, but over time their pace slows. The grueling path goes on for so long and is so difficult that the viewer realizes the true feat isn’t maintaining one’s speed – it’s continuing to move at all. One girl stops only after passing out. She says she decided that as long as she was conscious, she was going to keep moving her body. Another girl explains that she felt like she “couldn’t breathe” but continued walking anyway, surprising herself. “I don’t know, I must have inner strength,” she says.
Reach For The Sky shares the young people’s reasons for subjecting themselves to these tortures. One lanky young man went into the combat reserves to rebel against his parents, who expected him to be in the academic reserves. Another young woman seems to be obsessed with planes. But many echo the sentiment that one young man states poetically to the camera: “It’s a huge honor to wear those wings,” he declares, referring to the pin that only a pilot wears on an army uniform.
But after all that they go through, only some will enjoy the honor of wearing those wings. The rest will be ordinary soldiers. Instead of catering to the sensitive, the organizers reinforce this harsh fact. After the six days are over, they sit the young soldiers down, and in a frank tone the leading officer reads off everyone’s names, telling them bluntly whether they passed or failed. “You can really feel their hearts break,” a commanding officer admits, “you feel responsible.”
But little of this tender sympathy is expressed. When the buses come to take them home, the “winners” are picked up near the Israeli flag — and the “losers” are picked up at the bathrooms.