Portrait of a Statesman

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In their documentary film The Statesman, filmmakers Dan and Noit Geva present fascinating insights into the public figure and private personality that were merged in Israel’s first president. The Statesman – the first full-length film on Dr. Chaim Weizmann – uses his own words, taken from some of the thousands of letters he wrote, including 1,500 to his wife, Vera. These letters are presently in the Weizmann Archives on the campus of the Weizmann Institute.
The film premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival in the summer of 2010, and it recently had a special showing at the Weizmann Institute, courtesy of Yad Chaim Weizmann (the organization dedicated to preserving Dr. Weizmann’s heritage). After the showing, film critic Gidi Orsher led a discussion with the filmmakers and Prof. Yaacov Shavit, Head of the Jewish History Department at Tel Aviv University.
The Statesman shows Weizmann’s metamorphosis from shtetl boy to world-renowned scientist to key figure in the World Zionist Movement and finally, to first President of the State of Israel. Through his letters to Vera, brought to light for the first time in this film, we get a picture of the complex relationship – one that informs our understanding of Weizmann’s inner and outer lives. The letters are a sort of skeleton on which we see the body of his life take shape.
We are privy to his inner conflicts, along with his existential need for distance, quiet and precision – the fire and ice that drove him in equal measure. On the cinematic journey through the physical locales of Weizmann’s life, as well as its history-making uphill struggles and disappointments, we hear the echoes of his voice – gentle but determined – in the letters.
The Statesman was written and directed by Dan and Noit Geva; photography by Itay Neeman, Gil Elkarif and Dan Geva; editing by Noit Geva; original score by Shem Tov Levy. The film was produced by the Israel Film Service for Israel’s Second Television and Radio Authority, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Sport and Yad Chaim Weizmann.