Amazing new movie about the Jewish-American WWII pilots that helped fight Israel’s first war
Saw Above and Beyond last night at the opening of The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and I’m still thinking about it today. I’ve watched a lot of WWII documentaries doing research for Rabbits and this one is a real stand out. It’s the story of a group of Jewish post-WWII fighter pilots who risk their citizenship and their lives to help Israel in its War of Independence.
In 1948, just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps,this group smuggled planes out of the U.S., trained behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia and flew them to Israel. This ragtag bunch not only turned the tide of the war, they also embarked on personal journeys of discovery and renewed Jewish pride.
The film follows the story of the pilots as they crisscrossed the globe en route from the United States – where they met and trained in secret and struggled to stay two steps ahead of the FBI – to Panama, Italy and Czechoslovakia, where they flew versions of the very Nazi planes they had tried to shoot down in World War II. At times poignant, heartbreaking and laugh out loud funny (Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Rubens and his mother appear briefly to talk about Paul’s father who was a fighter pilot) it’s a film that leaves you feeling transported back to a better time. The men are candid and funny and it’s impossible not to love each one by the end of the film.
Roberta Grossman did a lovely job directing–the special effects are incredible. In an onstage interview following the screening, Nancy Spielberg the producer described the loving attention to detail they took with the archival footage and it shows.
Try and see Above and Beyond. A film like this, that trains its light on such an important, little-known true story doesn’t come along every day.