The Abraham File

Interviewer: Selim Nassib.

Interviewer: Selim Nassib.

The roots-commonality and developmental cacophony of human societies find a unique illustrative angle in “The Abraham File,” which explores that ancient patriarchal figure’s endless, diverse impact. Well handled but a fairly weighty intellectual exercise nonetheless, docu will find natural berth on Eurotube and in educational circuits after making fest rounds.

In the Old Testament, Abraham was chosen by Jehovah to establish a Hebrew nation; his faith was tested by God’s demand (withdrawn at the last minute) that his son Isaac be sacrificed. In addition to his major role in both Christianity and Judaism, Abraham is considered a key prophet by Moslems. Docu logically begins at the most heated locale for current Jewish-Arab conflict: in Hebron, where 29 Muslim worshippers were slain at a mosque in 1994 by a Jewish settler.

Rather than continue to explore that and other related political hot buttons in the Middle East, director Abraham Segal pulls back to investigate Abraham’s often contradictory role in each religion’s sacred texts and myriad other arenas. Journalists, politicians, archeologists, historians, theologians, artists, psychiatrists and the proverbial man-on-the-street all contribute to what emerges as an impossible-to-reconcile ideological Tower of Babel. Did Abraham even exist as a living man? Or is he a purely “legendary figure” constructed (and continually reconstructed) by many centuries’ ever-changing societal needs?

No answers are forthcoming in this intellectual mystery, with interviewer Selim Nassib given rather too much screen time traipsing around from one locale to another. Despite that effort at “opening up” what’s essentially a talking-head interview compilation, sheer weight of info here proves taxing at times. Still, underlying point — that rigid ideologies which continue to provoke bloody conflict actually descended from long-obscured, common sources — is potent and worthwhile.

Large-scale project clearly could have been expanded to greater length, and might benefit from such treatment for future telecast purposes. All tech aspects are high-grade, with majority of interviews translated in subtitles from French.

The Abraham File

(FRENCH-ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN - DOCU)

Production: A 13 production, in association with La Cinquieme, France 2, CDNP and Chaim Sharir, in cooperation with Palestinian National Television. Produced by Claude Guisard, Gerard Collas. Directed, written by Abraham Segal.

Crew: Camera (color), Jacques Pamart, Nili Aslan, Ron Katzenelson; editor, Michel Perez; music, Jacques Remus; sound, Xavier Vauthrin, Amir Boverman. Reviewed at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 23, 1997. Running time: 101 MIN.

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