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O Jerusalem

A tale of friendship between two men, one Jewish and the other Arab, as the state of Israel is being created.

Genre - Drama

Director(s) - Elie Chouraqui

Blue Rider's Role - Executive Producers and bridge financier

Distributor(s) - Canal Plus and Haut et Court (France), Samuel Goldwyn Films (U.S.)

Release Date - 2006

Synopsis - This historical drama meticulously re-creates the struggles surrounding the creation of Israel. Two young American friends--one Jewish and one Palestinian--are significantly impacted by the battles between Zionists and Arabs for control of Jerusalem. Told from three alternating points of view--Israeli, Palestinian and British, it shows the risks and sacrifices of both sides as they fight for their homeland.

Release Dates:
O Jerusalem was released theatrically in France and Belgium on October 18, 2006. It opened in Italy on September 7, 2007, played the Austin Film Festival on Oct. 11 and began a limited U.S. release (by Samuel Goldwyn Films) on October 17, 2007. It opened in Spain on July 4, 2008.

Boxoffice Results:
In its second week of release, O Jerusalem was playing on 26 U.S. screens, had grossed $121,215, ranked #45 in the country and averaged a decent $2,497 per screen--13th best of all movies in theatres. In its fourth week of release, it had grossed $179,057. After seven weeks on U.S. screens it had brought in $234,480 in very limited release (2-26 screens).

Its total worldwide gross as of Sept. 14, 2008 was $2,724,303. The foreign boxoffice gross was $2,489,823--with $1.522 million coming in a two-week run in France and the former French North Africa. It also did $208,544 in Italy over two weeks and $35,542 in Belgium and Luxembourg in four days. It earned $723,419 in a 10-week run in Spain in 2008.

Critics' Kudos:
John Anderson, Newsday: "There are moments, especially early on, when this historical adventure by director Elie Chouraqui resembles The Godfather: The same burnished tones, the same '40s-era middle shots, the same vintage cars, streets, people. Likewise, there is an emphasis on character, rather than cold, hard data, which provides a warm, human foundation for a what is essentially a primer in Middle Eastern politics set in New York and Jerusalem. The performances are all good, and there's enough history in O Jerusalem to float a boat of refugees.

Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter: "The film is admirable in trying to be fair to the Israeli and Arab perspectives while lamenting the enmity that endures to this day.

"The film intercuts the personal stories of (two friends, one Palestinian and one Jew) with momentous events on the world stage. Newsreel footage is used to mark the transitions, and such real historical figures as David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir share the screen with the fictional Bobby and Said.

"Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci's widescreen cinematography thrusts us into the action with sweeping crowd scenes and a beautiful evocation of Jerusalem in a time of transition. The director brings immediacy to the battle scenes, including the infamous massacre at the Arab village of Deir Yassin. To its credit, the film recognizes atrocities committed on both sides.

"Said Taghmaoui gives an eloquent, deeply felt performance, and J.J. Feild also is appealing.

"While many prestige pictures this fall seem bloated and overlong, this is the rare film that seems too short."

Cole Smithey, "Elie Chouraqui makes use of archive footage to underpin the chronology of violent events leading up to British Forces turning over the key to the city to the Jews. It presents a valuable history lesson that points out the dire effects of British occupation in the region."

Harvey S. Karten, CompuServ: "O Jerusalem” is a worthwhile primer and a reasonably entertaining piece of historical fiction that could prompt viewers to go a step further and to tackle the 640-page,1988 novel O Jerusalem by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre.

"Jews and Arabs lived together in relative harmony in Jerusalem under the protection of the British soldiers acting under a League of Nations mandate after the Ottoman Empire was broken up following World War I. The film takes us from the solid friendship of Bobby Goldman (JJ Feild–who bears a resemblance to Jude Law) and fellow New Yorker Said Chahine (Said Taghmaoui). When both go to the Holy Land, Said’s Arabic family welcome Bobby to their home. However, as conflict seems imminent at the time that the British are to leave the area and the United Nations votes to split Palestine into an Arab sector and a Jewish land, Said’s fellow Arab urge him not to talk to Bobby or to any Jews.

"The film alternates between the friendship of the two to a series of battles (realistically portrayed albeit with a limited budget), with political commentary interspersed throughout. David Ben-Gurion (Ian Holm), characteristic white hair flowing, who declares the Jewish state on May 14, 1948, is shown as a leading strategist and source of inspiration. At one point he sends Golda Meir (Tovah Feldshuh) in disguise to the camp of Jordan’s King Abdullah, an event recapulated by the one-woman movie, Golda’s Balcony. Abdullah, who comes across as a moderate who welcomes Jews to the Middle East, is later lobbied by Arabs to 'become the king of Jerusalem' as well as monarch of his own country.

"Romance does not die even in the midst of war: Bobby bonds with Hadassah (Maria Papas) while Hadassah shows herself as brave a fighter as any of the men in the unit. The extremist Jewish group Irgun comes in for criticism for the infamous massacre of innocent Arabs in the village of Deir Yassin, as the Jewish terrorist group is intent on scaring as many Arabs out of Israel as they can.

"The British soldiers are amoral, one stating upon departure that he does not consider the lives of any on both sides the equivalent of that of a single British soldier, while some Brits are openly sympathetic to the Arab side–allowing an enraged mob to break through their lines to get at the Jews."

David M. Kimmel, The Jewish Advocate: "The need to touch on pivotal events makes this at times seem like history’s 'greatest hits,' although the personal stories provide a narrative thread tying it all together. Combining the individual stories with the historical record, Chouraqui tries to end on a hopeful note. Both sides suffered, but if the personal friendships can be expanded to the national level, perhaps the seeds of peace can finally take root. It’s an optimistic, perhaps naïve, vision. Still,O Jerusalem says we have to try.

"Ian Holm is surprising, yet credible, as David Ben-Gurion, putting refugees off the boat into immediate military training because he has no choice. They are literally fighting for their lives."

Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun: "I came away with three memorable moments. In one, Ian Holm overcomes the distraction of his billowing, David Ben-Gurion hair to embody galvanizing-crisis leadership as he enlists European refugees fresh off the boat to expand his army. In another, a Jordanian soldier asks an Israeli to see his fortifications -- and the Jewish soldier opens his makeshift uniform to reveal his severe wounds. And in [an] acting triumph, a female warrior (Maria Papas) responds to the Jewish hero's kiss and vow of love with a heartbreaking mixture of ecstasy and melancholy, knowing he's setting off on a risky visit to his Arab friend. Throughout, Papas, as a woman who was forced to be a whore for the Nazis, creates a character as spectral as she is fleshy and emotionally complicated; she gives a marvelous, haunting performance. She convinces you that the protagonist would marry her at the brink of death."

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice: "O Jerusalem presents an unbiased overview of the historic struggle between the Arabs and the Jews in the battle for control of the holy city from 1946 to 1948. The drama is based on the bestselling novel by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. To all those — Jews, Muslims and Christians — who yearn for peace in Jerusalem, this is a hopeful and helpful movie that points out that the ties of brotherly love can outlast the winds of war and overcome the culture of revenge and racial hatred that animates the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

"Perhaps the most touching sequence of all is the depiction of the ceasefire mandated by Western powers on June 11, 1948. One minute Arab and Jewish fighters are shooting at each other, and in the next, they are embracing and taking care of each other. Unfortunately, this cease fire lasted for less than a month. The film ends with an invocation from the Psalm of David: 'Call for peace in Jerusalem. May peace reign on its ramparts and posterity in its palaces.'"

Susan Kandell, Pop Syndicate: "I won't soon forget thee, O Jerusalem. O Jerusalem is an epic drama that attempts to recreate the historic struggle surrounding the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The film is based on historical accounts from the 1972 best-selling novel of the same title written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. The book has been read by 50 million readers and saluted by the international press as the first impartial book about the birth of the State of Israel and the beginnings of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

"[This film is] a wonderful introduction to the birth of Israel; a sort of Israel for Dummies. Bring a friend and when it’s over, be prepared to 'talk amongst yourselves.' If it spurs discussion, then it has accomplished a task greater than just educating and entertaining.

"I was thrilled to have a phone conversation with one of the principal actors in the film, Tovah Feldshuh. She admitted that it was difficult to condense so much history into an hour and a half, but she felt that even that wouldn’t alter the effectiveness of the message of the movie, that we must foster relationships. 'That’s our only hope,' she said.

"Feldshuh is a supporter of Seeds of Peace, a non-profit, non-political organization that helps teenagers from regions of conflict. According to their website, Seeds of Peace (founded in 1993) is dedicated to empowering young leaders with the leadership skills required to advance reconciliation and coexistence. For her work on behalf of peace, she was the recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitas Award and the Israel Peace Medal."

Tasha Robinson, Chicago Tribune: "O Jerusalem aims for even-handedness and generally achieves it; the Jewish cause gets more screen time, but the film attempts to humanize both sides by focusing on Bobby and Said’s emblematic broken relationship and the way their personal regrets battle with their commitment to friends, family and country."

Viewers' Ratings:
As of Februaru 27, 2008, more than 72.1% of the 337 folks who rated O Jerusalem at The Internet Movie Database gave it thumbs up, with 24.3% rating it a perfect 10 and the overall average rating being 6.7 out of 10. All demographic groups liked the film, with the most enthusiastic being people 17 and younger(rating it 9.9 out of 10), men 18-29 (6.9) and people 45 and older (6.6).

Praise From a Paris Professor:"
Dr. Jacques Coulardeau, University of Paris (The Sorbonne): "The film is admirable because it follows the historical situation through the eyes of a few young people who knew and loved one another deeply before coming to Palestine: one Arab, three Jews and one Christian. Here is the film we had all hoped would come one day."

Major Cast and Crew Credits and Awards:
Directed by Elie Chouraqui (nominated for Berlin Film Festival’s best picture Golden Bear for Les Menteurs [The Liars]).

Written by Elie Chouraqui (nominated for France’s best original screenplay Cesar for Qu'est-ce Qui Fait Courir David? [What Makes David Run?]) and Didier Le Pêcheur (Harrison's Flowers).

Stars Saïd Taghmaoui (nominated for Cesar for La Haine [Hate]; won Best Feature Award at the 2000 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival; appeared in Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, Hidalgo, The Kite Runner, Sleeper Cell, The West Wing, Spartan, The Good Thief, Hideous Kinky and 35 other movies and TV projects); Maria Pappas (A Good Year, The Grind, Luminal); Sir Ian Holm (Oscar nominated for Chariots of Fire; won 13 other major awards and 12 other nominations for works including The Aviator, The Sweet Hereafter, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Wetherby, King Lear, The Bofors Gun, The Lost Boys, Greystoke, Dreamchild, The Madness of King George and Game, Set and Match; appeared in Alien, The Fifth Element, Garden State, Brazil, The Day After Tomorrow, From Hell, Henry V, Ratatouille, Lord of War and 95 other films and TV projects); and J.J. Feild (Last Orders, K-19: The Widowmaker, The Railway Children, Northanger Abbey, To The Ends of the Earth, The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Perfect Strangers and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby).

Cast includes Patrick Bruel (won major Italian award for The Milk of Human Kindness; appeared in Sabrina, Lost & Found, Force Majeure, El Lobo, Le Jaguar, La Maison Assassinée and 30 other films and TV projects); Tom Conti (Oscar nominated for Reuben Reuben; BAFTA Best Actor win for The Glittering Prizes; two other awards and two Golden Globe nominations for those films and Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story; appeared in Derailed, The Duellists, Shirley Valentine, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Beyond Therapy, The Quick and the Dead, American Dreamer, Saving Grace, The Norman Conquests and 56 other films and TV projects); Mel Raido (Derailed, Long Time Dead, Born Romantic, Grow Your Own); Cécile Cassel (Head in the Clouds, Ma Vie en L'air, Vivante, Le Pistolet); Mhairi Steenbock (Young Adam, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Hooligans, Ripper 2: Letter From Within); Tovah Feldshuh (Emmy noms for Holocaust and Law & Order; Method Fest Award for The Tollbooth; won Satellite Award for Kissing Jessica Stein; four Tony nominations for Best Actress and won four Drama Desk Awards, including one for Golda’s Balcony which, in 2004, became the longest-running one-woman show in the history of Broadway; appeared in Lady in the Water, Brewster's Millions, A Walk on the Moon, The Corrupter, The Believer, Silver Bullet, Citizen Cohn, Daniel, Law & Order, Crossing Jordan, Mariah and 60 other movies and TV projects); Shirel (debut): Peter Polycarou (Evita, I Could Never Be Your Woman, De-Lovely, EastEnders, Sunburn and Oklahoma) and Daniel Lundh (Délice Paloma, Between Two Rivers, The Statement).

Executive producers are Walter Josten (Emmy for The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie; produced Wake of Death, Bar Starz, Home of the Giants, Moss Method, The Groomsmen and 31 other films); Marcus Schöfer (The White Countess, Black Book); Andreas Schmid (The Upside of Anger, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, All the King's Men, Copying Beethoven, Monster, Lucky Number Sleven, Lord of War, The Punisher and 26 other movies and TV projects); David Korda (Emmy for The Island on Bird Street; produced Shattered, Two Bits, The Boys From County Clare, Sunburn, Body Shot, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God, Body Shot) and Jeffrey Konvitz (Spy Hard, Silent Night Bloody Night, Cyborg 2, 2001: A Space Travesty, Bloodsport 2; Saturn Award nom for writing The Sentinel).

Producers are Elie Chouraqui (won two major Spanish awards and another nomination for Harrison's Flowers; won 1996 Berlin Film Festival Best Picture Golden Bear for The Liars; nominated for a French César Award for writing Qu'est-ce Qui Fait Courir David; produced Man on Fire, Miss Missouri, Les Marmottes, Words and Music); Jeff Geoffray (Around the World in 80 Days, Home of the Giants, The Hollywood Sign, Night of the Demons, Silver Wolf, Falling Sky and 23 other films and TV projects); Mark Damon (won Independent Spirit Best Feature Award for Monster; produced Das Boot, Beyond the Sea, The Upside of Anger, The United States of Leland, The Lost Boys, Orgazmo, Short Circuit, 9 1/2 Weeks and 55 other movies and TV projects); André Djaoui (Modigliani, Lady Chatterly's Lover, Money, The Burning, La Leggenda del Santo Bevitore and Money); Jean Frydman (debut); Andreas Grosch (won CableACE Award for The Whipping Boy; produced Monster, The Jacket, The Upside of Anger, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, All the King's Men, Outlander, Lucky Number Slevin, I'm Not There, The Black Book, Running Scared, Death at a Funeral, Lord of War and 25 other movies and TV projects) and Jean-Charles Levy (Far From Heaven, Tempted, Walled In).

Original Music by Stephen Endelman (Evelyn, Two Family House; Grammy nominated for the soundtrack of De-Lovely).

Cinematographer: Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci (Death in Venice, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Under the Tuscan Sun, Sabrina, Regarding Henry, Popeye, Red Sonya, Ginger & Fred and Wolf).

Art Director: Simeon Halligan (Sparkle, Bob's Weekend).

Costume Designer: Mélanie Gautier (Les Couer des Hommes, All the Beauty in the World).

Visual Effects Coordinator: Charles-Axel Vollard (Munich, Camping, The 11 Commandments).

The Political Film Society nominated O Jerusalem as "the best film of 2007 to celebrate the cause of peace."

O Jerusalem page on Internet Movie Database

O Jerusalem trailers at

O Jerusalem trailer in French

Official site (in French)

six other trailers in various formats

English language site at Samuel Goldwyn Films

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