Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment

Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment

Children from Kibbutz Hulda, 1948, as seen in INVENTING OUR LIFE: THE KIBBUTZ EXPERIMENT, a film by Toby Perl Freilich. A First Run Features release. All rights reserved.

Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment

Narrator:
Director:
Writer:
Presents:
Cinematographer:
Editor:
Music:
  • Beit Habubot
Sound:
Distributor:

* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

Home/Social Media Links
Other Links

Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment (2010/2012)

Opened: 04/25/2012 Limited

Limited04/25/2012
Quad Cinema/NYC04/25/2012 - 05/17/201223 days
Toronto Jewish...05/09/2012 - 05/10/20122 days
Music Hall 306/08/2012 - 06/14/20127 days
Town Center 506/08/2012 - 06/14/20127 days
DVD08/14/2012

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home

Genre: Historical Documentary (English and Hebrew w/English subtitles)

Rated: Unrated

Synopsis

Set against the backdrop of its glorious 100-year history, Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment reveals the heartbreak and hope of Israel's modern kibbutz movement as a new generation struggles to ensure its survival. Can a radically socialist institution survive a new capitalist reality? How will painful reforms affect those who still believe in the kibbutz experiment, and continue to call it home?

Through the lens of its communal movement, director Toby Perl Freilich explores the modern history of Israel, from its revolutionary settlers to the political upheaval that shook the socialist foundations of the state. We meet first, second and third generation members from kibbutzim like Degania, the flagship commune established in 1909; Hulda, once near collapse and recently privatized; and Sasa, the first to be settled entirely by Americans and today Israel's wealthiest kibbutz.

With their desire to create a Jewish homeland and build a more just society, the first settlers helped place kibbutzim in the vanguard of Israeli history. In doing so, they became a magnet for all those who shared one thing in common - a powerful urge to invent their own life.

As the film progresses, the core drama shifts from Can it survive? to Yes, but at what price? Although it examines the impact of external political and economic forces on the kibbutz movement, Inventing Our Life also demonstrates how the system's own most cherished principles may have helped to undermine it.

In addition to the voices of contemporary and former kibbutz members, Inventing Our Life features narrative exposition and commentary from leading Israeli academics including philosophers Avishai Margalit, Menachem Brinker and Moshe Halbertal, who place the kibbutz story within its wider historical and intellectual framework.

Filmmaker Toby Perl Freilich is a freelance film producer and writer. Freilich co-produced and wrote the documentary film Secret Lives: Hidden Children & Their Rescuers, selected by Andrew Sarris as one of the ten best non-fiction films of 2003 and featured on HBO/Cinemax. The film also won a Christopher Award for "affirming the highest values of the human spirit." Freilich was nominated for a news and documentary Emmy in the category of Outstanding Achievement in a Craft: Writing, and Secret Lives was nominated in the category of Outstanding Historical Programming. She also was co-producer of the Emmy-nominated Resistance: Untold Stories of Jewish Partisans, an independent PBS documentary that was broadcast nationally in April 2002. Freilich is a contributing writer to The Forward and Tablet Magazine.

Select Quotes

"Unremittingly thought-provoking." -- Michael Fox, San Diego Jewish Journal

"Examines the kibbutz movement as a key thread within the greater tapestry of the history of the State of Israel and speaks with an intimacy that strikes an emotional chord. I challenge any viewer not to be moved by this fine, fine work of documentary art." -- David Leach, University of Victoria BC

Director's Statement

INVENTING OUR LIFE: THE KIBBUTZ EXPERIMENT has its roots in my own biography. In 1968, my sister, then 18, moved to Israel and settled on a kibbutz. My parents were horrified. Polish-born Holocaust survivors who'd immigrated to America after the war, they saw kibbutz as nothing more than a glorified kolkhoz, one of Stalin's failed collective farms. It was a prison camp in the guise of a commune. They couldn't understand why my sister would chuck the American dream in favor of something that smacked so much of Soviet oppression and limited opportunity.

I was surprised, then, when visiting my sister as a kid in the 1970s, to discover that her kibbutz more closely resembled a lush Israeli suburb than the impoverished collective I had been led to imagine. Food, electricity, health care, education--everything was free and liberally doled out. Communal life could be maddeningly close, but it was vibrant and thrummed with the energy of a shared enterprise.

As the years passed, the waste and inefficiency of a moneyless society gradually began to take their toll on Israel's roughly 270 kibbutzim. Financial and social hurdles arose to challenge each one of the kibbutzim's cherished emblems, from communal child rearing to the joint dining hall.

Hit hard by a severe economic crisis in the 1980s and threatened by the arrant defection of its third generation, strict egalitarianism and doctrinaire socialism became luxuries few kibbutzim could continue to afford. For the past 20 years, many kibbutzim have teetered on the brink of collapse, and the movement itself battles obsolescence.

But spending time on several kibbutzim, and interviewing scores of current and former members, I found a movement in flux, questioning old pieties and testing out new ones. Though still passionately committed to social justice, the next generation is transforming the kibbutz movement, making it once again relevant to Israel's capitalistic society while struggling with a wide range of challenges, new and old.

-- Toby Perl Freilich, adapted and reprinted from Tablet Magazine

Filmmaker Biographies

Toby Perl Freilich (Director, Producer, Writer)

A freelance film producer and writer, Toby Perl Freilich co-produced and wrote the documentary film, SECRET LIVES: Hidden Children & Their Rescuers, selected by Andrew Sarris as one of the ten best non-fiction films of 2003, and featured on HBO/Cinemax. The film also won a Christopher Award for "affirming the highest values of the human spirit." Freilich was nominated for a news and documentary Emmy in the category of Outstanding Achievement in a Craft: Writing, and SECRET LIVES was nominated in the category of Outstanding Historical Programming. She was also coproducer of the Emmy-nominated RESISTANCE: Untold Stories of Jewish Partisans, an independent PBS documentary that was broadcast nationally in April 2002. Freilich is a contributing writer to the Forward and Tablet magazine.

Juliet Weber (Editor)

Juliet Weber has been a documentary editor for over 20 years. Recent credits include Good Ol' Charles Schulz for PBS/American Masters; Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater for HBO; and the independent documentary A Jihad for Love. Other credits include A Rape In a Small Town, The Florence Holway Story, (Emmy Nominee for editing); Sister Helen, (Sundance Directing Award 2002); Diary Of a Political Tourist; Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives; Fastpitch, (Best documentary, Nashville Independent Film Festival); The Restless Conscience (Academy Award Nominee, feature documentary), Daughter of the Bride, (Academy Award Nominee, documentary short); and Lindbergh for PBS/The American Experience. Born in Sheffield, England but raised in the corn fields of Illinois, she now lives and works in New York City.

Itamar Hardar (Director of Photography)

Educated at the London Film School in the 1980s, Itamar Hadar has a reputation as one of Israel's leading cinematographers, with a long history of D.P. credits on major Israeli feature films and theatrical and broadcast documentaries. Fluent in English, Hadar has also worked for CBS, ZDF, Antenne 2, the BBC and other major networks in the U.S. and Europe. A selection of recent credits includes 2nd Camera Operator on Hello, Goodbye, a French film starring Gerard Depardieu & Fanny Ardant; First Arab Israeli Plane Hijacking, a CBS Documentary; Storm of Emotions, a documentary about the Israeli evacuation from the Gaza Strip, short-listed for an Oscar nomination in 2006; Suicide, a documentary about female Palestinian suicide bombers, produced for France's Canal +; Secret Lives: Hidden Children and Their Rescuers, directed by Academy Award-winner Aviva Slesin, nominated for 2 Emmys; and East Wind, a documentary describing the immigration of Moroccan Jews to Israel. Hadar is also a regular D.P. for Israeli feature director Dan Wollman, whose films have captured top prizes at the Jerusalem and Palm Beach Film Festivals.

 

Trailer