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Movie Review

O Jerusalem a.k.a. “Beyond Friendship,” “O' Jerusalem”

MPAA Rating: R for some war scenes

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
History, Drama
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 17, 2007
DVD: May 12, 2009
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Samuel Goldwyn Films

Jerusalem in the Bible

Prophecy and the Bible

Is there valid prophetic evidence that the Bible is God’s Word? Answer

TERRORIST REVENGE—Love replaces hatred—former Israeli soldier and an ex-PLO fighter prove peace is possible-but only with Jesus

How do we know the Bible is true? Answer

How can the Bible be infallible if it is written by fallible humans? Answer

When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, does that imply that it is completely accurate, or does it contain insignificant inaccuracies in details of history and science? Answer

Answers to supposed Bible “contradictions” and puzzles

Bible archaeology

Featuring: JJ Feild, Saïd Taghmaoui, Maria Papas, Patrick Bruel, Ian Holm, Tovah Feldshuh, Mel Raido, Cécile Cassel, Mhairi Steenbock, Tom Conti, Shirel, Peter Polycarpou, Daniel Lundh, Anatol Yusef, Jamie Harding, Laura Weissbecker
Director: Elie Chouraqui
Producer: Andy Birmingham, Elie Chouraqui, Diane Cornell, Mark Damon, Caroline Dhainaut, André Djaoui, Jean Frydman, Jeff Geoffray, Andreas Grosch, Alice Guien, Patrick Irwin, Walter Josten, Jeffrey Konvitz, David Korda, Jean-Charles Levy, Nicolas Manuel, Colin McKeown, Despina Mouzaki, Anouk Nora, Haris Padouvas, Laure-Anne Rossignol, Dionyssis Samiotis, Andreas Schmid, Marcus Schöfer
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films

“The historic struggle for Jerusalem and the birth of Israel”

“Can a land be born in one day?
Can a nation be brought forth all at once?
Yet as soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.”
—Isaiah 66:8

On May 13, 1948 Great Britain controlled Palestine. All the land was under British rule. On May 14, 1948 the nation of Israel was established. It had a parliament, constitution, and was officially recognized by the United Nations. That same day, it was invaded by five allied Arab nations. 60,000,000 Arabs stood against 6,000,000 Jews, most of whom had just survived the Holocaust. Yet Israel prevailed without the assistance of the USA or any other nation. God kept His promise.

“O Jerusalem” is not a religious film. Nor it is about prophecy. It is based on a history book by the same name, but is really a work of historical fiction. It is the story of two friends, one Arab and one Jew, who are torn apart by the coming war and partition. The story takes us from New York to Jerusalem. It phases from the story of the two friends to the historical figures and events that took place at that time. Such an undertaking is not an easy task. A filmmaker always stands the risk of becoming so absorbed in history that the audience loses touch with the characters, and they become cardboard cut outs. Conversely, if the movie focuses too much on individual characters, the scope and magnitude of history is lost. “O Jerusalem” tries to walk the line between these two extremes. Overall, I would say it is fairly successful in its venture.

The story revolves around David and Saif who meet and become friends in New York shortly after World War II. Both move to Palestine for different reasons and eventually wind up on different sides of the war of Independence. There is an ample supply of war violence in the film, although no more than we have seen in PG rated films. Only one instance of foul language comes to mind, as a sexual reference is made early in the film. There are no sex scenes or nudity. Although the film carries an R rating for violence, it seems this was a conscious decision, because it is trendy for war films to have R ratings, but this film is certainly no worse than a number of PG-13 films hitting the theater every day.

Critics faulted “O Jerusalem” for not deciding whether it was a character drama or an historical one. Certainly the appearance of David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir shifted the film from its central characters to become more of a docudrama. and we do sometimes feel like the stories of Saif and David have been lost somewhere amid the historical drama.

Nevertheless, “O Jerusalem” remains one of the few movies to try to capture the events surrounding this momentous historical event. Of all the movies made, only “Sword in the Desert” (made a year after the events) came close to capturing the heart of the people who lived through these events, but if you do not already know your history than “Sword in the Desert” fails. In this respect, what “O Jerusalem” sacrificed in character development it compensated for by filling in the gaps of history.

In short, “O Jerusalem” is not a perfect film. No film has ever been able to capture the great historical and prophetic events of 1948. Perhaps no film ever will, for unlike other great events in history, there is no Moses, no King David, no Jesus or other great man who stands out among the pack. Certainly David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir are important figures, but what I learn most from my studies of that time is that it was God who restored Israel. It was not because of anything that a man or a people did. It was solely because of what God did. God keeps His promises, regardless of our own worthiness. The restoration of Israel after 2000 years remains one of the most important events in history. It is no wonder that when Napoleon was asked why he believed in a God, he replied simply, “the Jews.” The history of the Jews is proof of the God of the Bible.

Learn more about Biblical prophecies

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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Movie Critics
…worthy of respect… French filmmaker Elie Chouraqui’s sprawling ‘O Jerusalem’ is, in storytelling and execution, old-fashioned film entertainment, and this handsome historic tale gets points for effort and fine workmanship. …
—Doris Toumarkine, Film Journal International
…a well-meaning but uninspired film… Still, the performances are all good…
—John Anderson, Newsday
…Production values are top-notch. …and solid acting, but absolutely no sense of emotional boundaries… with its starry-eyed if battle-scarred optimism, can’t quite achieve credibility.
—John Anderson, Variety
…suffers from an acute identity crisis: It can’t decide if it wants to be history, drama, or a cry for peace in the Mideast. … it’s hard to become invested in any of the characters, Jew or Arab. …
—Linda Matchan, Boston Globe