A seminal film with a few flaws
Seth J. Frantzman | Jerusalem, Israel | 06/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This wonderful film is yet another tour de force of Gatai's epics regarding Israel wars. In Kippur he showed us the sting of battle on the Golan. In Kedma we are shown the all to real story of Jewish Holocaust survivors arriving in 1948 and being instantly thrown into battle for the new state. The beginnings are on the Kedma, a leaking old ship transporting hundreds of survivors. They are met at the shore by Jewish Palmach Guerillas, and are immediately fired upon by English soldiers. This begins one of may scenes that seems more fit for the stage then film, and perhaps is indicative of the writer being more familiar with theatre production. While shots are heard of camera the English soldiers are seen on Camera trying to hold the Kedma survivors. Why aren't the Palmach firing on the English soldiers? Why aren't the English shooting the Pamachniks? Who is shooting? Its not entirely clear why the Palmach didn't lay down covering fire and get the survivors away from the beach, and the `battle' doesn't seem realistic. Nevertheless it paints the symbolic picture of the English, who are leaving Palestine in three days, still trying to interdict refugees who have no where to go. Throughout the rest of the film we follow the new arrivals as they go from survivors to soldiers. Several scenes tell the symbolic tale of the founding of Israel. Many of the longer speeches seem fit more for the stage then screen. For instance one Haganah Jewish resistance leader proclaims "Thank God we got rid of Religion'. IS the statement an irony, or is it simply translated wrong into the subtitles? Several other `scenes' that appear on the back of the film don't even seem to be included. For instance the cover shows a woman helping `Manachem' load his rifle. While we see plenty of this main character we don't seem to ever see his fried help him load his rifle. The Battle scenes are perfectly fine and show the large numbers of holocaust survivors who sacrificed so much so that their children would have a chance to live free. Also several scenes show the fleeing Arabs and their interaction with the new arrivals, presaging the current peace problems. Two long monologues symbolize both peoples feelings. One loan Arab claims that his people will become a `wall' while a Jewish school teacher proclaims that Jewish history should never again be taught the way it had been in Europe.In the end this seminal work is a wonderful story of the founding of the state, on the personal level, in the same style as Kippur. Seth J. Frantzman"
Liked 'Broken Wings'? Then go elsewhere other than 'Kedma'
Andy Orrock | Dallas, TX | 02/26/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"There are some excellent and very insightful viewer reviews already here on these pages. I concur specifically with the statement made by the spotlight reviewer: "I really wanted to like this film." Exactly. But, wow, director Amos Gitai really makes that tough. He's the king of the overly long shot. At the moment you think: okay, sir, let's move on with the story, Gitai's camera lingers, and lingers, and...lingers for minutes longer than necessary. I should have read my coverbox better: Gitai also directed 'Kadosh' and I had the same frustration there, where viewers were forced to watch the protagonst getting dressed in the morning for what was easily a 10-minute stretch of wordless action bordering on inaction.
When I pulled up the page for 'Kedma' in amazon, it tells me to pair my potential purchase with 'Broken Wings.' Take my advice and don't do that. I was totally enchanted with 'Broken Wings' and was making my way though a list of Israeli productions and bumped into 'Kedma.' I think those of you who liked 'Broken Wings' will be similarly disappointed. If you want to extend your Israeli-originated viewing beyond 'Wings,' I suggest taking a path well away from Gitai and down a road that includes the great drama 'Time of Favor' and - especially - 'Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi' (a personal favorite)."
DISAPPOINTING -- EXCEPT FOR LAST FIVE MINUTES
F. Sweet | Midwestern USA | 01/21/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Amos Gitai has lost something since his directorial debut film ESTHER. In 1985, he took the biblical story of the book of ESTHER and placed it in the ruins of former Arab and Middle-Eastern Jewish area of Haifa, Wadi Salib, that had been destroyed in a 1950s riot.
Gitai's fast moving action film KIPPUR, released in 2000, about the war that Gitai had personally survived as an Israeli soldier, had been 27 years later turned into this movie from his war experiences. (In fact, the final scene of the intense action-adventure war movie KIPPUR actually comes directly from Gitai's personal experience.) ESTHER and KIPPUR were outstandingly good films that made Gitai's career.
Now comes KEDMA (in Hebrew meaning, "towards the East"). What a cinematic disaster!
Basic story: Opening with a wordless sequence, set in May 1948, in which surviving, Holocaust-traumatized European Jews arrive by boat (named Kedma) in Palestine, eight days before creation of the state of Israel, the oft times controversial Gitaï's latest examining of his nation's history and challenging contemporary reality focuses on Israel's founding moments. The passengers are anxious to get off the awful Kedma. But British troops try to stop them. They get caught up in poorly scripted retaliatory fire by the Jewish secret army (Irgun?) who try to help the arriving Jews get settled in a kibbutz -- in the middle of nowhere.
Attempting to follow the immigrant/refugees on their first steps in the 'promised land', Gitaï casts an unflinching eye over the justifications for his country's existence. Putting the issue of Arab territory and their grievances centre-screen [given extra resonance by the current situation in the Middle East] it's also telling about British imperial responsibility for the mess in Palestine. However, at its heart is the story of Jewish and Arab displacements, anticipation, endurance and comradeship; demanding of all sides in its understanding.
There are three small groups of Jewish refugees (two to three per group) from a boatload of people. The movie follows them in an amateurish manner and never drops a hint as to what ever happened to the other few hundred Kedma arrivals. By amateurish I mean, the leader of a detachment of British soldiers urges his men on in American accented English, while one of the Brit soldiers carries an unfurled Union Jack -- presumably so you'll know who the British soldiers are.
Other segements are just plain silly. With British soldiers after them, each of the three groups makes camp fires at each of their rest stops -- as though the British wouldn't spot smoke in the middle of a desert, and the camp fire ashes wouldn't give their positions and directions away.
Then the British are equally stupid: every time they begin closing in on the fleeing Jews (schelpping their heavy valises) and their Israeli commandos -- who rarely fire their weapons -- they begin firing shots at them off camera (presumabaly from a distance). If the British were sincerely trying to round the Jews up for deportation -- or simply to kill them -- then why would they fire lots of warning shots, giving their adversaries many chances to escape?
Then there's a "classic" battle scene between the Israeli commandos, accompanied by the newly arrived Kedma-im, and Arabs shooting at them from atop a hill in a building. You can clearly hear gunshots rapidly firing at our heroes advancing up the hill, but there's no sign on the summit of the telltale smoking guns or Arabs firing their weapons.
Maybe Gitai has been out of uniform too long. Alas, from beginning to end nothing is genuine about this movie except the landscape. The only thoughtfully played out scene is that of a surviving teacher, who had just arrived on the Kedma and witnessed the British and Arab battles with the Jews. In the last five minutes of the movie, he breaks down into an hysterical soliloquy that questions and challenges virtually all of Jewish history and its outcome up to his own existence. That was really something.
Overall, the viewer will be burdened by waiting for KEDMA to get better from its opening scene until just five minutes before it ends."