Ben-Gurion, Epilogue

Yariv Mozer and Yael Perlov
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The origin story of Yariv Mozer and Yael Perlov’s Ben-Gurion, Epilogue, dates back to an altogether different film. In 1969, Perlov directed the film 42:6 – Ben Gurion, a docudrama that focused on formative chapters in David Ben Gurion’s life. That film was a combination of scripted scenes and archival footage, both of which were interwoven with then-contemporary footage of Ben Gurion at his home in kibbutz Sdeh Boker [in the southern Negev region.] The research done for David Perlov’s film was based on a 1968 interview with Ben Gurion on his 82nd birthday, shortly after the death of his wife, Paula, and five years before his own passing. The young interviewer was one Dr. Clinton Bailey who had recently moved to Israel from the US where he befriended the Ben-Gurions and later, even settled in Sde Boker. That major interview was subsequently consigned to the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive where it lay unused and forgotten for decades. Over time, the sound reels were lost, rendering the visuals all but unusable. Director Yariv Mozer and editor, Yael Perlov, came across this lost interview whilst researching another project. Intrigued by the mystery, thus begun a quest for the sound reels. The search finally bore fruit after Mozer and Perlov had managed to track down Malcolm Stuart who had recorded the interview. Initially, Stuart was minded to hold onto the recordings but eventually came around and agreed to donate them to the Ben-Gurion Archive at Ben-Gurion University. At last, after all these years, it would be possible to restore this historical film and make out what Ben-Gurion was saying. And he certainly had a lot to say, showing rare candour – about his own personal history, his feelings following the death of his wife (“Broken? Whyever should I be broken… it’s not as if I can alter the situation, can I?”), about the meaning of leadership (“a leader incapable of taking unpopular decisions is dangerous”), about the occupation (“given a choice between peace and all the territories we’d conquered last year, I would choose peace”), and about Israel’s survival prospects (“I should certainly hope so.”)

As said, the film is mainly based on that lost interview, alongside several rare bits of footage from various other sources, and some still images. The limited amount of footage allows Mozer and Perlov to observe just about every nuance there is to the elderly leader: how he dresses, his gestures whilst speaking, and the way that his thoughts give rise to a string of sentences and ideas. The storyline is a ‘disorganised’ narrative thread that ends up revealing so much more than any traditional structure would.

The punch that Ben-Gurion, Epilogue packs comes from the footage, the clever editing, and the time that we, the viewers, invest towards watching the end result. Our own present day is virtually touched by this historical figure peering at us and addressing us, moments before taking his own final curtain call. The impact is quite extraordinary, leaving us able to do little else but sit down and watch, listen, and think. Ben-Gurion realises that time is running out, which is why one has a duty to make the most of it. In one of the film’s most touching moments, he chastises Bailey for asking to wrap up their session 10 minutes ahead of the time they’d arranged, because what had been agreed upon must be adhered to.

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