The Prime Ministers:The Pioneers Opens Fri., Nov. 29 at Sundance. Not rated.

Avner is still going strong today.Moriah Films

Avner is still going strong today.Moriah Films

The Prime Ministers:

The Pioneers

Opens Fri., Nov. 29 at Sundance. 
Not rated. 114 minutes.

Wait, so Sandra Bullock made it back safely from space and became . . . Golda Meir? The first of two documentaries based on the 2010 memoirs of Israeli statesman Yehuda Avner, this installment adds some Hollywood voices to enliven the old speeches, newsreels, and photos. These include Bullock (as Israel’s fourth prime minister), Leonard Nimoy, Michael Douglas, and Christoph Waltz. But mostly what we get is the spry, British-born Avner himself, now 84, who rose from speechwriter to diplomat during his four-decade career.

Maybe your memory suffered a little during those years, but his didn’t. We get a lot of political minutiae from this eyewitness to history, including visits with Presidents Truman and Johnson. But The Prime Minsters is equally an overview of Israel’s difficult birthing process, from the 1948 battle for independence through the Six-Day and Yom Kippur Wars. (If pitched to the History Channel, I think the network would say, “Could you add more battlefield stuff? It’s a little dry.”) It’s an insider’s account, mostly a remembrance of heroic deeds and brave politicians, with essentially zero self-criticism. Meir and her cohort (Levi Eshkol, Yitzhak Rabin, and Menachem Begin) are presented at their best, their utterances delivered as if carved in marble. If there was—as exists in every political arena—treachery, rivalry, corruption, and shady deal-making, Avner evidently didn’t see it. Or, more likely, he looked the other way.

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