It’s a shame controversy will dog “A Beautiful Valley,” since Hadar Friedlich’s debut tackles a forgotten subject with sensitivity, notwithstanding plot sidelines squeezed in to humanize the protag. The source of the ruckus isn’t the story, about an elderly kibbutz founder unwilling to watch the movement die, but rather the poorly handled decision by the Jerusalem fest to revoke an award due to perceived conflict of interest. Though the pic has flaws and benefits from prior knowledge of the kibbutz scene, “Valley” deserves exposure and should be popular at Jewish/Israeli festivals.
The kibbutz archive is in desperate need of restoration, but the community is nearly bankrupt and the leaders aren’t prioritizing the past. The same is happening to the increasingly elderly residents, including Hanna (Batia Bar), a tough, outwardly cold woman who gave her life to the ideal of kibbutz life and can’t bear to see it crumble. Friedlich tosses in a younger woman (Hadar Avigad) who seeks out Hanna’s company, and an elderly rival (Ruth Geller), but both figures are too obvious as softening agents. A still camera and handsome long shots emphasize the tranquility of the land.