AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


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10/14/07

Golda's Balcony: Uncritical View Of A Life And Times

Golda's Balcony: Uncritical View Of A Life And Times PDF Print E-mail

By Prairie Miller

While psychology tends to operate under the law of human nature that the individual is not likely to portray themselves as a villain in their own life story, we reasonably expect more from the filmmakers of biopics, whether fiction or documentary. Jeremy Kagan's Golda's Balcony, which is adapted by William Gibson, from his Broadway one woman show of the same name, stars Valerie Harper in an impressive, passionately sustained performance as the late Israeli prime minister, along with her incarnation of a host of other characters, historical and personal, male and female, from her own husband and father to the Pope and world leaders.

Harper's achievement as an actress is phenomenal, and impeccably transcends the bare bones nature of the material for which she bears such immense responsibility in conveying as both convincing and affecting. If only the content itself matched the stature of this multi-talented thespian.

Golda's Balcony is at its best when delving into the personal, intimate corners of Meir's life, and dissipating into the protagonist as a propaganda mouthpiece when it veers into the political. The sentimental depiction of Golda Meir is infused with many moments of warmth, wit and earthy, homespun humor, as a woman who rose from matzoh ball duty in her kibbutz kitchen to leader of her troubled nation. But who was this woman, really. She's portrayed as a generous and kind hearted senior citizen, reluctant to play the aggressor at war. On the other hand, she's on the phone to Kissinger day and night, demanding all sorts of military hardware, attack planes and nuclear weapons to amass in an expanding arsenal. Grandmother, or godfather?

The shamelessly uncritical view of Golda, her world perspective, and the period of Middle Eastern history over which she presided as a major player, confuses the protagonist's point of view with the reality. For example, this consistently affectionate portrait of the charismatic leader lacks nuances of personality that would admit flaws. This is the same woman whose statement, "there is no such thing as the Palestinian people," is in no way of minor significance. And Steven Spielberg, a man who certainly bears no animosity towards the state of Israel, depicts Meir in his film Munich, as the cold blooded architect of extra-legal government target assassinations in which countless Arab bystanders have been summarily executed.

It is not without irony that Golda's Balcony opens the same week as Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Both historical biopics sanitize women leaders who engaged in imperialist conquests and enriched their own governments through the displacement, suffering and genocide of indigenous peoples. And neither film makes mention of these grim realities, even as they glorify the sympathetically portrayed perpetrators.

Prairie Miller

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