The Galilee Eskimos try to rescue their kibbutz from the bulldozers.
THE GALILEE ESKIMOS (Jonathan Paz) Rating: NNN
As the Israelis press further into Gaza, you may think the timing isn't quite right for a warm and fuzzy film about the country's kibbutz movement. But The Galilee Eskimos winds up being timely in its own way.
The title refers to the Inuit tradition of leaving elders to die on their own. Here, 12 elderly kibbutzniks have been left behind by the other residents as the complex sinks into debt and the bank is bent on selling the whole damn thing so developers can put up a massive casino.
In response to that threat, the elders shake off their depression and attempt to save - even revitalize - their community. They get the old electrical generator going, recover the ancient water pump and reignite old passions, both political and sexual.
But they also have to re-examine their fundamental values. What does the fact that their children have abandoned them say about socialized child-rearing? How can it be that one of their members is even contemplating armed conflict with Jewish developers? You get the picture.
Director Jonathan Paz makes each of these characters a unique presence, so we're wholly connected to all of them by the end. Paz himself is the son of founders of the kibbutz movement, and the footage of the kibbutz's early days - plainly archival - is pure gold.
You get a whiff of pro-militarism when the cache of arms used to defend the kibbutz against the Syrians in the late 40s is discovered under the floorboards. But really, The Galilee Eskimos is all about the clash between the old Israel, established by idealists looking to better the world in the 30s and 40s, and the new, the one represented by venal developers who have, in reality, transformed kibbutzim into expensive resorts and, yes, by those tanks pushing their way into Gaza.
The Galilee Eskimos screens as part of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival's new program, Chai Tea & A Movie, Sunday (January 18), 5 pm, at the Sheppard Grande.