When the Fly on the Wall Buzzes, It’s Wise to Take Note

This article was originally published in The Times of Israel.

Photo proofs from a critical meeting between president Lyndon Johnson and prime minster Levi Eshkol at LBJ’s Texas ranch in January 1968, as seen in 'The Prime Ministers.' (photo credit: courtesy)

Photo proofs from a critical meeting between president Lyndon Johnson and prime minster Levi Eshkol at LBJ’s Texas ranch in January 1968, as seen in ‘The Prime Ministers.’ (photo credit: courtesy)

Ambassador Yehuda Avner admits he broke the law. But no one’s coming after the diplomat and advisor to four Israeli prime ministers for saving the confidential notes he took at all the high-level meetings he attended over the course of decades. On the contrary, many people are thanking him for stashing his detailed minutes away, because without them, Avner could not have written his well-received 2010 political memoir, “The Prime Ministers.”

Now, there’s a new documentary film based on the book. “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers,” directed by Richard Trank, opens in New York on October 18 and in Los Angeles on November 6.

It’s the first in a series of two films. According to Trank, there was simply too much in Avner’s book for only one movie. The first film deals with the premierships of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir in the 1960s and early 1970s, and the second one (due out next summer) focuses on Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin’s tenures from 1974 to 1983.

Audiences need to keep in mind that the film, like Avner’s book, is a memoir. It’s history as it is told from Avner’s personal perspective as someone close to prime ministers and other key political players during Israel’s first decades. Those looking for an expansive, balanced historical account will be disappointed.

Trank provides some broader context to the events Avner recounts, but he’s interested in how the 84-year-old remembers things. Given where Avner was standing, we’re, of course, going to get Israel’s side of things — and a bit from her allies’. And if you are looking for major insights about internal Israeli politics, this is not the film for you either. Avner, who joined Israel’s foreign service in 1958, is a diplomat at heart, focusing on Israel’s security and relations with the Americans and Europeans.

That being said, Trank nonetheless weaves an enjoyable and informative narrative with “The Prime Ministers.” Even Israeli political history buffs are sure to learn something new.

Click here to read more and watch the film trailer.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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