Monday, February 15, 2010

Will Winterbottom Bottom-up?

In another blog, I had related that Michael Winterbottom came to the Begin Center to research his upcoming film on the clash between the British Mandatory regime and both the Jewish and Arabs, each seeking their political goals. I showed him books and we spoke about various aspects of his new film. He was then set on the 1936-39 period as the Arab-Jewish conflict during those years of the "Disturbances" or the Arab Revolt interested him as a forerunner to today's events.

Seems he has now moved forward a decade:

Colin Firth to play Jewish underground leader in 'The Promised Land'

Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen are lining up alongside Jim Sturgess to star in Michael Winterbottom's new film The Promised Land, the film's backers said Sunday.
Due to start shooting in late summer, The Promised Land is billed as a political crime thriller set in British-ruled Palestine at the end of World War II, and covers the period leading to the establishment of Israel.

[ This site has it thus: "A political crime-thriller, The Promised Land is set in British-ruled Palestine at the end of the Second World War, and covers the pivotal period in the region’s history leading to the formation of Israel.

Sturgess and Macfadyen will play British police officers trying to end a campaign of violence and killings by an extreme right-wing Jewish group led by the charismatic poet, Avraham Stern."]

Firth has been cast as Avraham Stern, the leader of the Underground organization Lehi, which lead a violent campaign against the British Mandate in Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s. The British authorities also called the Lehi "The Stern Gang."...Sturgess and Macfadyen will play British police officers trying to end the Jewish revolutionaries and underground groups' violent campaign to expel the British, which culminated in the 1946 attack on the British headquarters at King David Hotel in Jerusalem that left dozens of British soldiers dead.

As he hasn't come back to me, although I did send off a mail to his assistant who came with him to the Begin Center last month, I am going to guess that there will be, despite "artistic license", unnecessary errors. Hopefully, but probably not, they will be minor.

Since Stern was killed by the British while handcuffed in 1942, and Menachem Begin led the Irgun from 1944 and the King David explosion took place in 1946, if someone doesn't have a handle on dates, personalities, the intra-Yishuv politics as well as the British Colonial policy that was set in 1939 by the White Paper that reneged on the entire concept of a Jewish National Home, the film might simply be a vehicle for personal outlooks and interpretations rather than a work of art based on real events.

Did the Irgun and Lehi engage in terror or in urban guerrilla warfare against a repressive regime of occupation? Did either specifically target civilians or were legitimate liberation resistance operations directed against the police, the army and the government, even in the instance of the King David bombing?

I know of another production in its early stages which intends to follow, as faithfully as possible, books like Begin's "The Revolt" so as to assure that, at the very least, historical facts will not be manipulated.

I do hope Winterbottom won't, so to say, bottom-up on this project.


Lori Lowenthal Marcus said...

Hmmm. Let me think about this. Will Hollywood get it right or will the Israelis be portrayed as the terrorist models for the current batch of murderous monsters who slaughter innocents?

As always, thanks for giving us all a heads-up. (or bottoms-up.)

YMedad said...


And, of course, each bottom has its own worth. Up or down.

Diane said...

Thanks so much for this inside look at the research Winterbottom did for Promised Land. We are a Jim Sturgess fansite and interested in learning more about Thomas Wilkin, a British Officer in the CID. Could you point me in the direction of any images of Wilkin, or web-based references, articles or books that would tell us more about the role this man played during the British Mandate and his part in the killing of Avraham Stern? Also I'm specifically interested in an article called, "The British Officer's Lover" written by Yehuda Koren. The focus of the article was the romantic involvement of Shoshana Borochov and British officer Thomas Wilkin. Thanks in advance.

YMedad said...

A recent Hebrew-language book appeared a year ago, "Days of Red", in which Ram Oren builds a parallel course between Stern and Wilkin and it has pictures.

I will return.

The other book I haven't heard of actually.

I knew personally both men who assassinated Wilkin.

YMedad said...

The Haaretz review of the book seems to be here with a picture:

YMedad said...

try too:

Unknown said...

Excellent!! Thanks so much for your help with these references, especially the images. Also thank you for your comments on our website. We will be keeping track of this film's progress and will hopefully hear something more concrete about the script prior to filming.

The article I mentioned was actually from a newspaper and is talked about in this online source: