Following his impressive fiction feature “Kadosh” at Cannes this year, prolific Israeli helmer Amos Gitai returns to the documentary in “Zion, Auto-Emancipation,” a mix of the director’s family recollections and interviews with oldsters and historians. The subject is Theodor Herzl, author of “The Jewish State” and organizer of the 1897 Zionist congress in Basel, Switzerland, which led to the creation of Israel 50 years later. Unnecessarily cryptic and padded in parts, the pic’s main international audience will likely be Jewish groups.
The historical info is fascinating, particularly the third half-hour, an unvarnished, uninterrupted talking-head interview with journalist Uri Avneri (uncredited on the video screened in Venice), who eloquently analyzes the founding of Israel and its future. The rest is uneven, ranging from the poignant poetry of a woman reading the Old Testament psalm “For everything there is a season” to uncredited photographs (presumably of Gitai’s family) and other material that feels like filler from a personal film diary. Despite, or perhaps in keeping with pic’s multilingual pretensions, the Venice video lacked subtitles for the German dialogue.