Two Films Rehabilitate Golda Meir’s Reputation

Photo Credit: David Rubinger/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Golda Meir sometimes gets a bad rap for her handling of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, especially in Israel, where she is either largely forgotten or even disparaged.

In fact, as two new films demonstrate, she did an extraordinary job under enormous pressure and under complicated circumstances – an impossible situation illuminated in both “Golda” and “Golda’s War Diaries.”

Audiences are invited to watch both the acclaimed feature film starring Helen Mirren and the new documentary at home, then join us at the Boulder JCC on March 5 at 10 am for a discussion.

Lena Fishman, the executive director of the Golda Meir House Museum in Denver, will speak about this seminal figure as well as this pivotal moment on Jewish history, and will be joined by Kathryn Bernheimer for a conversation about the films with the audience.

Lena Fishman, who was hired two years ago to turn the historic Golda Meir house on the Auraria campus into a museum, is intimately acquainted with “Golda.” She has met both of Golda’s grandsons, who live in Israel. She worked with the British screenwriter Nicholas Martin and saw the finished script. She met both the Israeli director Guy Nattiv and star Helen Mirren in Berlin, where “Golda” had its world premiere. She also met Liev Schreiber, who plays Henry Kissinger, when he came to visit the Golda Meir Museum.

“It’s hard to be objective,” Fishman admits, “but I really liked the movie and thought Helen gave an excellent performance. Although there is some compression of time in the script, it is highly accurate and based on records recently released by the Israeli government.”

Golda’s War Diaries,” which is also based on the archives released on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, tells the story of those fateful days in the Prime Minister’s own words and those who were with her. Director and writer Yariv Mozer offers audiences a unique look at the real story in his 74-minute documentary, which has been playing Jewish Film Festivals around the world in recent months. This revealing analysis, enriched with archival footage and expert commentary, is particularly resonant amid Israel’s current challenges, offering a nuanced reassessment of one of its most polarizing leaders and tumultuous times.

The Golda Meir House Museum – dedicated to women’s empowerment and standing proudly against antisemitism and hatred of any kind – has ironically also faced challenges since October 7 in the form of very loud and disruptive protests by groups supporting Hamas. The protestors have filled the parking lot with trucks and Palestinian flags and signs accusing Israeli of genocide and apartheid, using drums and megaphones to chant slogans supporting violence against the Jewish state.

While private tours such as the one being organized by the Boulder JCC and Boulder Hadassah have not been impacted because they are not advertised to the public, the museum has been largely unavailable to students and other visitors.

A young Golda and her husband

Golda Meir lived in this small house when she fled her parent’s home in Milwaukee in 1913 to pursue her education in Denver. She joined her sister Shayna, niece Judith, and brother-in-law Sam Korngold in their modest brick duplex. It was here she met her future husband Morris Meyerson and began to develop her political philosophy. She also became deeply involved with Zionism and eventually decided to emigrate to Israel.

She became Israel’s first and only female head of government and the first female head of government in the Middle East. Meir has been lionized as a founder of the state and described as the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics, but also widely blamed for the country being caught by surprise during the 1973 war.

Golda Meir became Prime Minister at 71

Like Golda herself, “Golda” has been the subject of some controversy. The casting of Mirren elicited the same concern Bradley Cooper faced when it was revealed he would wear a prosthetic nose to play Leonard Bernstein in “Maestro.” British actress Maureen Lipman and others criticized the casting of non-Jewish Mirren, stating, “I’m sure she will be marvelous, but it would never be allowed for Ben Kingsley to play Nelson Mandela. You just couldn’t even go there.” Like Cooper, Mirren was transformed by prosthetics to resemble the historical figure she plays. (Like Cooper, she also chain smokes through the film for the sake of authenticity.)

Helen Mirren in heavy make-up as Golda Meir.

Still, “Golda,” like “Maestro,” received largely positive reviews, praise for her performance, and generated few quibbles about historical inaccuracy. Even in Israel.

After registering, audiences will receive a link to watch “Golda’s War Diaries.” “Golda” can be streamed at home by clicking here.

GOLDA: Behind-the-Scenes Discussion
Tuesday, March 5 | 10 am – 12:30 pm | $10
To register, CLICK HERE

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn has spent her professional life writing about, teaching, and presenting the arts. Founding Director of the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, Kathryn was Director of Menorah and ACE at the Boulder JCC from 2003 through August, 2019. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time." kathryn.bernheimer@gmail.com

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