Above and Beyond
Film Review by Kam Williams
Reverential Retrospective Recounts U.S. Pilots’ Role in Israel’s War of Independence
Israel found itself losing its War of Independence in 1948 because it had no fighter planes with which to respond to air attacks on the part of its Arab adversaries. Luckily, a number of World War II fighter pilots from half a world away would answer its desperate plea for assistance.
Though this ragtag band of brothers considered themselves more American than Jewish, they were nevertheless willing to risk their U.S. citizenship and their very lives by volunteering to come to the rescue. So, they started by smuggling planes out of the country in order to train behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia.
Next, they flew to the war-torn Middle East where they would play a pivotal role in turning the tide of the conflict, while cultivating an unexpected Jewish pride in the process. The daring exploits of these unsung aviators are recounted in vivid fashion in Above and Beyond, a reverential documentary directed by Roberta Grossman.
Among the octet feted here is Leon Frankel, a bomber pilot who had received a Navy Cross for the heroism he’d exhibited over Okinawa. Another is Coleman Goldstein, who had been shot down over France in 1943 and declared missing in action. However, he survived WWII by making his way over the Pyrenees to Spain where he was rescued and reunited with his squadron. Then there’s the late Milton Rubenfeld, fondly remembered here by his son Paul, better know as comedian Pee Wee Herman.
Inter alia, we learn that the members of the 101st painted “Angels of Death” as a logo on their aircrafts’ fuselages. On one mission, a former commercial pilot for TWA tricked Egyptian air traffic controllers into believing that he was about to land in Cairo before dropping explosives on a city which had never been bombed before.
Another recounts observing refugees from Hitler’s death camps kissing the ground upon arriving in Israel. Besides fighting, the 101st not only flew supplies to the front lines but evacuated wounded soldiers from the Negev Desert battlefields.
As the curtain comes down, one ace waxes rhapsodic with, “God allowed us to survive World War II, so we could come to Israel and help the remnants of our people survive.” Hear hear!
Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Hebrew with subtitles
Running time: 87 minutes
Distributor: International Film Circuit
To see a trailer for Above and Beyond, visit: http://aboveandbeyondthemovie.com/trailer