Kedma (2002)





Director:  Amos Gitai. 

Starring:  Andrei Kashkar (Yanush), Helena Yaralova (Rossa), Yussuf Abu-Warda (The Arab Man), Moni Moshonov (Klibanov), Juliano Mer (Moussa), Menachem Lang (Menachem), Sendi Bar (Yardena), Tomer Russo (Milek), Liron Levo (Gideon), Roman Hazanowski (Roman), Dalia Shachaf (Dalia), Karen Ben Raphael (Isha), Sasha Chernichovsky (Sacha), Rawda Suleiman (Jaffra), Gal Altschuler (Ygal).

follows new immigrants to Israel shortly after the nation's founding


Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the movie.

May 1948, seven days before the creation of Israel.  The ship Kedma brings survivors of concentration camps to Palestine.  The vessel is overcrowded with people everywhere.  Yanush tries to make love to Rossa, but gives up because of the lack of privacy.  He climbs up to the deck which is extremely crowded.  Also on board is a cantor named Menachem, who is very seasick, and his wife.  When they are off the coast of the future Israel, they climb into smaller boats and are rowed to shore.  On shore, the refugees are greeted by armed Israelis who will escort them to their various destinations.  British soldiers descend on them from the adjacent hills firing over the heads of the new arrivals.  The newcomers scatter along with their welcomers.  Rossa gets separated from Yanush.  The cantor and his wife speak to the men and women of the Jewish secret army through the translator Klibanov.    Rossa and Yanush are reunited.  They are so into each other that they ignore the leader who repeatedly has to tell them it is time to leave.  Klibanov leads the cantor and his wife to the camp.  On their way they pass a group of Arabs fleeing from Jewish fighters. They are upset to meet the three Jews.  They say that the Jews took their land.  Violence threatens but one woman orders the others not to hurt the three, but to let them leave in peace. 

At camp the refugees that landed and escaped the British soldiers come together.  Many are soon in a class being taught on how to operate the Sten gun, which they are to call the mechanism.  Menachem gives a surprisingly bloodthirsty speech about killing his enemies.  He is soon going to get the chance to fight as the camp comes under fire from Arabs from a nearby village.  The Jewish forces are split into three groups to attack the village.  In the skirmish many of the Jewish fighters are killed, but they take the village.  Chasing after the fleeing Arabs, the cantor is shot and soon dies.  The Jewish leader of the attack tries and fails to get information out of an older Arab man who is very vocal in his denunciation of the Jewish actions.  He shouts that the Arabs will never give up and never leave their lands. 

The survivors of the skirmish return to the camp.  Everyone gets busy taking care of the dead and wounded and packing up the trucks to leave. Yanush seems to have a case of shell shock.  He goes on a delirious rant about the history of the Jewish people and how oppression and martyrdom are key components of the Jewish sense of identity.  Everyone except Rossa just ignores him as they busily work.  The armed caravan moves on down the road. 


There is not much story here.  We do get to know the cantor and his wife and Yanush and Rossa, but only superficially.  And until the beginning of the skirmish, the movie drags.  It seems that the emphasis is more on documenting the mechanics of how the refugees came to their new home than on story telling.  The story only picks up with the skirmish.  What struck me was the number of casualties the Jewish skirmishers took.  They prevailed, but at a heavy cost.  The cantor who was so eager to fight for his new homeland is among the dead.  The movie was only around 90 minutes long and they should have made it a bit longer with more concentration on the feelings and thoughts of the newcomers.  Maybe one or two Arab characters could have been given more treatment. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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