Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Bar Kokhba movie?

CINEMA CONCEPT: BAR KOKHBA: THE MOTION PICTURE. Spartacus has had his day in film history. It is time for Bar Kokhba (Eli Kavon, Jerusalem Post).
MY CONCEPT for a Bar Kokhba film – actually he was known by his birth name Shimon bar Koziba – is to combine the Golan-Globus action epic with some serious investigation as to why this revolt achieved success, the attitude of rabbis to Bar Kokhba, and the legacy of the last leader of a sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael before 1948. The reason that Bar Kokhba is the perfect subject of an historical film is that we have just enough information from rabbinic literature, archaeology, Greek and Roman historians, and Bar Kokhba’s letters to reconstruct the rebellion and the politics and theology that surrounded it.

The Great Revolt of 66-70 CE is recounted in great detail by the Jewish historian Josephus. But the only result of his chronicle was a horrendous television mini-series on Masada, completely ignoring the earlier stages of the revolt, the struggle between competing Jewish leadership, and the establishment of Rabbinic Judaism in Yavneh by Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai.

Masada, a literal and figurative dead end, has been hijacked for an audience that is deemed too stupid to follow the complexities of Jewish history, ancient and modern. The time has come for a thinking person’s film that combines military heroism and its dissent among the Jews of ancient Israel. As for the Diaspora rebellion against the Emperor Trajan in 115-117 CE, there is simply not enough information to reconstruct those events, although we know the Romans put down the rebels with great bloodshed.

We have just enough information about the Bar Kokhba rebellion to reconstruct it with fact and imagination and address issues that are relevant to this day. As the screenwriter, I would infuse my narrative with assessments of the Bar Kokhba legacy from two modern studies: The Image of Bar Kokhba in Traditional Jewish Literature by Richard G. Marks and the study of Recovered Roots by Yael Zerubavel.
I would say we don't have nearly enough evidence to reconstruct even the basic facts and events in the Bar Kokhba Revolt, let alone its politics and theology. Not that that would (or should) prevent a cinematic interpretation of it.

By the way, there have been two mini-series on Masada. Recently there was The Dovekeepers on which PaleoJudaica posted a number of times. See here and follow the links. There was also the Masada miniseries with Peter O'Toole back in 1981.

This is an interesting idea. The author clearly has his own vision for an interpretation of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, one that would not be uncontroversial. Let's see what happens.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Bar Kokhba Revolt, see here (cf. here, here, and here) and follow the links.

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