The Hannibal Directive (2015)
Production: A 2911 Foundation and Al Jazeera English production
Broadcast: Al Jazeera English, October 2016
The Hannibal Directive was a top-secret military order used by the Israeli army.
First devised in 1986 by three senior army commanders, it stipulated measures to be taken when an Israeli soldier was captured during combat. Its purpose was to prevent the enemy from escaping with that soldier, even if it meant endangering the soldier’s life and the lives of civilians in the vicinity.
The order was last executed during the 2014 Gaza War – known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. During that conflict, more than 2,000 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed.
On Friday August 1, 2014, at Rafah in the south of Gaza, the Israeli Army invoked the Hannibal Directive to try to stop Hamas fighters from fleeing with a captured Israeli officer.
The unprecedented ferocity of the action that followed cost the lives of at least 135 civilians – 75 of them children. Amnesty International and other NGOs have described the events of that day, “Black Friday”, as a war crime.
This film, by award-winning director Benny Brunner, explores the secret history of the Hannibal Directive – tracing its origins, its most recent use and how it has been applied.
The documentary was made in 2015 amid mounting controversy about the application and morality of the doctrine – a dispute which eventually led to the order being quietly rescinded by the Israeli military in June 2016. It contains interviews with former Israeli soldiers, reservists and civilians who were at the time increasingly divided over whether such a brutal policy, which led to the deaths of so many innocent civilians, could ever be justified.
The Érpatak Model (2014)
Production: A 2911 Foundation production
Broadcast: German WDR, Austrian ORF and RTS - Radio Télévision Suisse
Festivals: World Premiere at Vision du Réel International Documentary Film Festival, Nyon, Switzerland, April 2015. Biografilm Festival, Bologna, Italy, June 2015. BIDF Budapest International Documentary Festival, September 2015. ASTRA Film Festival, Sibiu, Romania, October 2015. Diritti Umani, Lugano Festival, Switzerland, October 2015. Diritti a Todi, International Human Rights Festival, Italy, October 2015. VERZIO International Human Rights Film Festival, Budapest, November 2015. ZagrebDOX, Zargreb, Croatia, February 2016. One World, Prague, Czech Republic, March 2016. Crossing Europe FF, Linz, Austria, April 2016. BIFF, Bergen, Norway, International FIlm Festival, September 2016. One World Human Rights Film Festival, Bratislava, Slovakia, October 2016. Romani Film Festival, Budapest, Hungary, October 2016.
Prizes: BIDF Budapest International Documentary Festival, September 2015 - winner of the main prize in its category. Diritti a Todi, International Human Rights Festival, Italy, October 2015 - winner of the festival main prize.
The film portrays Mihály Zoltán Orosz; the hyper-energetic and ultra-nationalist mayor of Érpatak, a village of 1,750 inhabitants in Eastern Hungary. Mayor Orosz is possessed by delusions of grandeur and the need for control. He divides the villagers into “builders” and “destroyers” – supporters and opponents of his Érpatak Model. The mayor’s ultimate goal is the creation of a “sacred and organic dictatorship” where the supreme values are order, discipline and a fighting spirit as they unite the community on a local level and the nation on a country level.
State of Suspension (2008)
Screened: Israeli premier screenings: Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem cinematheques, February 2010.
Festivals: World premiere: Levante International Film Festival (in competition), Bari, Italy, 2009
The film examines in nine chapters what has happened to us Israelis after 60 years of independence; what went wrong, how we turned from victims to victimizers.
In a series of satirical interactions Israelis, Jews and Arabs alike, are confronted with simple questions-tasks: “Look into the camera and ask forgiveness for the killing of innocent Palestinians/Israelis”. Most people refused. “If a bi-national state with equal rights to its Arab citizens will be established here and there will be peace with the entire Arab world, who should be the new state’s new enemy”?
“Hard. Powerful. Can’t wait to see the finished piece. These films are increasingly like nail guns: sharp and fast, pinning critical ideas down so an argument cannot be obfuscated, and the humanitarian issues squirm away into the half-flight of apathy”. ~ Tobias Morgan, a mentor at the Documentary Campus master school.
The Great Book Robbery (2007-2012)
Production: A 2911 Foundation and AL Jazeera English production
Screened: Israel, USA, UK
Broadcast: Al Jazeera English
Chronicles of a cultural destruction. The story of 70,000 Palestinian books that were looted by the newly created State of Israel in 1948. The film interweaves various story lines into a structure that is both dramatically compelling and emotionally unsettling. The interviews centre on eyewitness accounts and cultural critiques that place the book theft affair in a larger historical-cultural context; in the process, new light is shed on the Palestinian tragedy of 1948 and the moralistic-heroic Israeli narrative of the 1948 war is deconstructed.
The Concrete Curtain (2004-5)
Production: A Benny Brunner production
Festivals: Palestine Film Festival, London 2005 Arab Film Festival, San Francisco 2005
Variety describes the film:
There’s a Kafkaesque absurdism to the real-life circumstances in “The Concrete Curtain” that, as in Kafka, nobody finds particularly funny. Portrait of the new injustices and bureaucratic pretzel-logic created by ongoing construction of the West Bank wall (following helmer Benny Brunner’s 2003 “The Wall”) is a rueful document that views related Israeli policies as a blatant land grab designed to isolate and drive away native Palestinians. As the wall’s ugly concrete slabs carve up Palestinian East Jerusalem, and areas are rezoned, residents find themselves in bizarre predicaments. The Israel-Palestinian border sometimes cuts through living rooms, making it illegal for a resident to be in parts of his or her own house. Extended families will now face great difficulty visiting, though as the crow flies, they’re still neighbors. A mixed-race professional couple with different travel-permit cards must soon separate and shuttle children between them, or else sacrifice careers to their newly restricted mobility. Variably outraged, resigned and simply incredulous, interviewees (speaking mostly in English) are everything but surprised at governmental maneuvers the pic’s intertitles ironically dub “Israeli humor.”
The Wall (2003)
Production: A Benny Brunner and VPRO (Dutch TV) co-production
Broadcast: Dutch TV
Festivals: 2004 Toronto JFF 2004 Barcelona International Jewish Film Festival (BIJFF) 2004 Vienna Jewish Film Week
Israel calls it a terror prevention barrier. The Palestinians refer to it as a land grab. Those are the labels attached to the controversial ‘security fence’ that Israel has built to separate Israel from the occupied West Bank. “This highly critical point-of-view documentary, by outspoken filmmaker Benny Brunner, attacks the wall as a “symptom” of what ails Israel. The Wall features Israeli leftists, such as journalist Amira Hass and political activist Haim Hanegbi, who condemn it in no uncertain terms, as well as Palestinians who decry its adverse effects on their livelihood. Topical as they come, The Wall, which was made for the Dutch TV, is sure to engender debate and discussion.”
The Lobby (2003)
Production: A Benny Brunner and IKON (Dutch TV) production
Broadcast: Dutch TV and Al Jazeera English
How powerful is the Jewish lobby in America? This is the central question explored in the film. Considering the pro-Israeli attitude of every recent U.S. administration, it is often suggested that the Jewish lobby dictates Washington’s Middle East policy. AIPAC does make and break the careers of politicians, like the NRA and the former Christian Coalition. However, does this organization really have a major influence on U.S. foreign policy?
In The Lobby people from varying backgrounds with diverse political attitudes, give their opinion on this matter. Interviewed are:
Steven Grossman – former president of AIPAC.
Malcolm Hoenlein – Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations representative.
Denise Majette – Georgia congresswoman.
J.J. Goldberg – Jewish weekly Forward editor.
Janet McMahon – Washington Report editor.
Noam Chomsky – MIT professor.
The opinions of these and the other interviewees form a rounded, rational and unemotional conversation about a frequently avoided subject.
The Children of Abraham & Sophie (2002)
Production: A Benny Brunner, Humanistische Omroep (Dutch TV), LASSO Film & TV Production, and Noga Communications (Israel’s Channel 8) production with financial support from the STIFO
Broadcast: The Netherlands, Israel
Festivals: Toronto JFF, 2004 Barcelona International Jewish Film Festival (BIJFF ), 2004 Vienna Jewish Film Week, 2004
It was love at first sight when Abraham Braun and Sophie Schopf first set eyes on each other in the opera house of Breslau in 1920. They were both 20 years old; Abraham a German Jew and Sophie a German Catholic. A year later, after Sophie had converted to Judaism, they were married. In 1924, the couple with their first son Yehezkel emigrated from Germany to Palestine. Eighty years later and through the life story of their youngest son, Mordechai Bar-On, a unique drama unfolds, involving Christians, Jews, Muslims, Holocaust victims, and Nazis.
It Is No Dream (2002, Co-directed with Joseph Rochlitz)
Production: A Benny Brunner, Joseph Rochlitz, IKON (Dutch TV) production
Broadcast: 2002: YLE (Finland), SVT (Sweden), SBS (Australia), ETB & TVC (Spain). A 30 min. version of the film was broadcast by IKON (Dutch television)
Festivals: 2003 SF JFF; 2004 Toronto JFF; 2004 Barcelona International Jewish Film Festival (BIJFF ); 2004 Vienna Jewish Film Week
“If you will it, it is no dream,” wrote the founder of political Zionism Theodor Herzl in 1902, prophesying the creation of a utopian Jewish state. One hundred years later, some of the harshest critics of Israel’s occupation policies are Israelis themselves – a small minority of intellectuals, political activists and artists whose voices are rarely heard outside Israel.
Kosher Friendly (2001, Polish and English with English subtitles, Co-directed with Joseph Rochlitz)
Production: A Benny Brunner, Joseph Rochlitz, NIKmedia (Dutch TV) production
Screened: Wroclaw, Poland
Broadcast: The Netherlands
Festivals: 2002 Seattle JFF; 2003 Warsaw JFF
Young Poles in Wroclaw, Poland, with one Jewish grandparent or grand-grandparent, are looking for their Jewish origins while negotiating their complex identities by celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas, and having the desire to open a Jewish restaurant but being unable for financial reasons to keep it strictly kosher, thus compromise on a kosher friendly establishment.
Blood Money (1999-2000)
Production: A Benny Brunner and ARTE production
The film reveals the motivations and political maneuvers that accompanied the complex restitution and compensation agreements – known also by the German term Wiedergutmachung (making amends) – between Germany, Israel and the Jewish world. In testimonies, often charged with emotion, victims, former government officials, and lawyers tell this unique story from the perspectives of the various parties involved.
Al Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe 1948 (1997, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles)
Production: A Benny Brunner and ARTE co-production
Screened: Israel, USA, Europe
Festivals: 1998 SF JFF; 1999 Köln Film Festival; 2001 One World International Film Festival, Prague; 2004 , Vienna Jewish Film Week
Arguably, the first documentary film that seriously tackles the historic events that led to the creation of over 700,000 Palestinian refugees and the destruction of about 400 Palestinian villages at the end of the first Israeli-Arab war of 1948. Based on historian Benny Morris’ book ‘The birth of the Palestinian refugee problem, 1947-49’.
The Avengers (1996, co-directed with John A. Kantara)
Production: A Die Zeit TV-Magazin production
Broadcast: Germany, France, The Netherlands
At the end of WW II, Jewish ex-partisans came up with a plan to kill six million Germans as a way to avenge the six million murdered Jews in the Holocaust.
The Seventh Million – The Israelis and the Holocaust (1995)
Production: A Benny Brunner, ARTE, ZDF, ViewPOINT Productions, IBA, production
Broadcast: (as thematic evening) Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Israel. Just broadcast: Australia
Festivals: 1996 IDFA; 1996 Jerusalem International Film Festival (JIFF); 1997 SF JFF; 1998 San Diego Jewish Film Festival (SD JFF); 2004 Barcelona International Jewish Film Festival (BIJFF)
This arresting documentary is based on a controversial book by Israeli historian Tom Segev that examines the most sensitive and previously closed chapters of Israeli history.
Director Benny Brunner and writer Tom Segev describe Zionist leadership’s ambiguous response while the Holocaust was happening and Israel’s struggle to deal with its terrible legacy. The film portrays the disturbing postwar reception of Holocaust survivors, in pre-Israel Palestine and later in the new state, where they found themselves ignored or scorned by a society devoted to heroism and the creation of a “new man.” A pivotal moment in Israel’s coming to terms with the Holocaust legacy was the Eichmann trial in the early 1960s. Broadcast live on Israeli radio, the trial served not only as group therapy for the entire nation, but also as a turning point in the Israeli attitude towards the survivors who could finally tell their story in public.
Segev’s narration is punctuated by fascinating and gripping archival footage, dramatic location shooting, and tours through Holocaust memorial sites in Israel and Poland. Interviews with prominent Israeli writers, who witnessed many of the events the film covers, provide a foil, sometimes directly countering Segev’s arguments, thus providing an interesting dialectic.
The film provides a context for understanding the profound impact of the Holocaust on the Israeli psyche. It takes a hard look at the complicated relationship between the Holocaust and Israel’s cultural-political identity in the first fifty years following the most cataclysmic event in Jewish history.
Production: A HOS (Dutch television) production
Broadcast: The Netherlands
A look at Russian history’s darkest aspects.
A Philosopher For All Seasons (1991, Hebrew with English subtitles)
Production: A ViewPOINT Productions and HOS (Dutch television) co-production
Broadcast: The Netherlands, Australia, Israel
Prizes: Won a special commendation at the 1991 ‘European Non-Fiction Films Competition – Prix D’Europa
An intellectual portrait of the late professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz: an outspoken and often controversial critic of Israeli politics. He coined the term ‘Judeo-Nazi’ during the 1982 Lebanon War to describe Israel’s military mentality. The film covers Leibowitz’s opinions and views on history, Judaism, ethics, religion, and politics. Authors Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, and journalist B. Michael are among the film’s participants.
Romania, The Taming of The Intellectuals (1990)
Production: A Benny Brunner, ViewPOINT Productions and NOS (Dutch TV) production
Broadcast: The Netherlands, Finland, Australia, and Israel
The motivation and history behind the collaboration of Romania’s intellectuals with the communists in general and the Ceaucescu regime in particular.