“I did my job, especially in terms of striving for peace and ensuring Israel’s security in the best way possible,” Yitzhak Rabin says at the beginning of Erez Laufer’s poignant documentary, Rabin in His Own Words. “I think the State of Israel may have lost the prime minister with a better chance than any other of advancing peace and preventing war.” Rabin was referring to the first time he was prime minister, when he was forced to resign in 1977 because of a financial scandal. But he could have been speaking from the grave following his assassination in 1995 during his second term, shortly after winning the Nobel Peace Prize with Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres. In fact, Rabin in His Own Words is like a message from beyond, as a dark cloud hovers over the film, which consists of archival footage, press conferences, home movies, broadcast interviews, family photographs, and letters that trace the personal and professional side of Rabin, from how he was raised as a child to his desire to be a farmer, from his rise in the military to his serving twice as prime minister, from his dedication to his beloved wife, Leah, to becoming a grandfather.
Laufer (Mike Brant, Laisse-moi t’aimer), who directed and edited the film, does a superb job of navigating through Rabin’s life, told completely by Rabin himself (except for voice-overs reading his letters). It’s particularly devastating to watch how close Rabin was to achieving some kind of peace in the Middle East, only to be murdered because of that very ideal, by an Israeli; it’s hard not to think about what’s going on in the world today, especially the rise of Donald Trump, in relation to what happened to Rabin, as Laufer shows demonstrators at a Benjamin Netanyahu rally calling for Rabin’s death, and eventually getting what they want. Rabin in His Own Words is also an excellent companion piece to Amos Gitai’s Rabin, the Last Day, which came out earlier this year and is a factual re-creation of the day of the assassination. Named Best Documentary at the Haifa International Film Festival, Rabin in His Own Words also makes one wonder about whether there ever will be other leaders like Rabin who will have a real chance at a lasting peace. “Although this film chronicles the past, it is made for the future of our children,” Laufer notes in his director statement. The film opens May 6 at Lincoln Plaza, and Laufer, who refers to the work as “an autobiography of sorts,” will be on hand for Q&As following the 5:20 screenings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night.