Inventing Our Life
Film Review by Kam Williams
Historical Documentary Chronicles Rise and Fall of Israel’s Kibbutz Movement
At the time the State of Israel was established in 1948, the Kibbutz Movement had already been thriving there for almost 40 years. In fact, the country might not have come into existence without the kibbutzim, because the settlements, which raised kids collectively, were very adept at turning children into patriotic fighters willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their homeland.
The very first kibbutz, Kvutzat Degania, was started near the Southern tip of the Sea of Galilee in 1909 by a dozen refugees from Eastern Europe. They envisioned the kibbutz (which is Hebrew for “gathering”) as a path towards creating a just Jewish nation based on socialist principles.
Founded on benign notions of equality and cooperative economics, the kibbutz system became a powerful magnet for Jews who yearned for self-determination. Participants lived communally, with profits from farming and other enterprises being pooled for the benefit of all.
The rise and decline of that utopian experiment is the subject of “Inventing Our Life,” a riveting retrospective directed by Toby Perl Freilich. The film illustrates in detail how the kibbutz system evolved over the course of its century-long existence, and how it eventually came to incorporate such individualistic concepts as differential wages and privatization of property.
This warts-and-all documentary shares a wealth of information by way of the bittersweet reflections of several generations of folks raised on a kibbutz. Most touching are the wistful remembrances of those who recall pining for their parents at night as children because kids slept in separate buildings from adults.
We see that in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, these Israeli communists were finally forced to make many concessions to modernity and materialism. One disappointed adherent grudgingly admits learning that, ”The kibbutz system, based on altruism, failed, while the American system, based on greed, works.”
A valuable history lesson about an idealistic blueprint for nirvana ultimately frustrated by something as simple as basic human nature.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 80 minutes
Distributor: First Run Features