**Documentary Film Review** “Above & Beyond”


In this historical documentary by director Roberta Grossman and produced by Nancy Spielberg (the sister of Steven) we are taken back to 1948 as the newly forming independent state of Israel is on the cusp of having to fight a war for that independence on multiple fronts, with the surrounding Arab nations wanting no part of the country gaining that freedom.  During the beginning waves of invasions following the British withdrawal from the country, Israel stood no chance on its own to face down such overwhelming odds, especially with no real armaments or air power to assist them.  But, thanks to the efforts of American-born Israeli and World War II flight engineer Al Schwimmer alongside Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, the tide of war was about to be changed, with Schwimmer utilizing connections to smuggle planes into Israel as well as armaments.  Additionally, he also assisted in recruiting former WWII pilots to go over to Israel and form what would ultimately become the Israeli Air Force.  Told through the recollections via interviews with several of those original pilots, the story of their adventures and misadventures, hardships and triumphs, and the pivotal role they, as ‘Machal’ (volunteers from abroad), played in keeping Israel from falling, paints a vivid picture of the Jewish people, the pride they had in having their own country, and the international gathering of those men who felt the pull to defend and preserve the sanctity of a new, free Israel and without whose help history would have gone much differently.

Watching this inspirational documentary, it just serves as another potent reminder of what can be accomplished when a group, small as they may have started out, jointly decides to take action and gather forces to protect that which they hold dear.  And the power of this is illustrated even more when we see that it wasn’t just pilots of Jewish decent that rose up, but ultimately volunteers from many countries that came to Israel’s aid in their gravest time of need.  Each pilot interviewed gives a wonderfully detailed and straight forward take on the experience of first being called to go over to be a part of the fight, to being given antiquated planes to fly, to finding the courage to face an overwhelmingly larger opposing force and snatch victory from what could have been absolute defeat.  There is added weight in the telling of this journey via the sharing by Shimon Peres himself.  In those victories, however, there was still the loss of friends, and many of those great pilots, foreign and Israeli, gave their lives to this fight for independence.  Archival footage paired with the interviews is once again a superb tactic here to bring the tales being told to more realistic perspective, and hearing each pilot’s background story about their experiences growing up Jewish in the WWII era is equally sobering, but also uplifting as the victory achieved thanks to the formation of this Air Force in Israel paved the way for the future of a nation and a people.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

Leave a Reply