You probably missed Carlos during its brief run at the Music Box Theatre last December, but this category-bender has since appeared on numerous “Ten Best” lists (including my own). Originally made for French television, Carlos was released in two forms: a three-episode version (which runs almost 6 hours and received a Golden Globe nomination in the “Best Mini-Series” category) and a “Road Show” version (condensed down to 3 hours and still available on On Demand as I write).
While most of my colleagues have focused on actor Édgar Ramírez’ stunning performance as Ilich Ramírez Sánchez aka “Carlos the Jackal,” I found myself more interested in the world refracted through the career of this mediagenic self-mythologizer. While Sánchez claimed to support the Palestinian cause, Carlos depicts a terrorist mercenary following the money for over two decades, until the rise of Muslim fundamentalism, combined with the fall of the Berlin Wall, robbed him of his usefulness to the countries that had sheltered and funded him.
Before you see Carlos, I recommend a memory refresher. In June 1976, members of Carlos’ team hijacked a plane in Athens and flew south to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Thinking themselves safely tucked under Dictator Idi Amin’s wing, they cordoned off all the Jewish passengers, released the non-Jews, and threatened to murder their hostages unless Israel complied with various demands. The Israel Defense Force assault on Entebbe (in which all the terrorists were killed and almost all of the hostages were freed) is the culminating event of episode #2 of Carlos, and the beginning of Sánchez’ long slide into the French jail in which he is now serving a life sentence.
For reviews of four films about Entebbe, visit my blog: www.SecondCityTzivi.com.
Books: Mollie’s War
Cyndee Schaffer of Northbrook has just completed a great labor of love: publication of letters written by her mother during her service as a WAC during WWII. Mollie Weinstein was a medical transcriber for the Veterans Administration when the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was established in 1943. Mollie enlisted because she wanted to serve her country in Europe in uniform.
The letters published in Mollie’s War describe experiences from basic training in the through deployment in England, France, and Germany—a chronology that covers two earth-shaking years from October 1943 through November 1945. Unfortunately the strict censorship of the day meant that Mollie could say little about her actual work as a member of the Medical Intelligence squad. Therefore, although Mollie was in London when the Allies stormed Omaha Beach and she was in Paris during the Battle of the Bulge, we learn mostly about her social life.
Nevertheless, following clues as if they were breadcrumbs in the forest still makes for fascinating reading, and you will want to meet Mollie in person (still vibrant at age 95) at one of the many book signing events Cyndee has planned for 2011. For details, visit her blog: http://MolliesWar.wordpress.com.
Conviction, one of the plays presented by the Victory Gardens Biograph as part of its OnStageIsrael Festival in 2008, returns to Chicago for a three-week run at Theatre Wit on Belmont beginning Feb. 3.
Written by Oren Neeman and directed by Kevin Hart, Conviction is a one-man play based on Yonatan Ben Nachum’s novel Confessions. Ami Dayan stars in two roles: he plays Spanish priest Andrés González (1447-1486) as well as an Israeli scholar who finds letters written by Gonzalez while doing research in Madrid. Scenes set in the 1400s were more compelling than scenes set in the 1960s, but Conviction is certainly worth seeing.
For tickets call (773) 975-8150, or visit: www.theaterwit.org/boxoffice.
Historian Julia Phillips Cohen of Vanderbilt University gave a fascinating lecture at the University of Chicago last month called “Sephardi Jews and Imperial Belonging in the Late Ottoman Empire.” Although Cohen comes from an Ashkenazi background, she told me she grew up in California where “Spanish was all around me,” and this proved useful as she found herself increasing drawn to the “recent revitalization of Ladino Studies” in graduate school.
Cohen is currently working with Professor Sarah Abrevaya Stein of UCLA on a new book called The Sephardic Studies Reader: 1730-1950 intended to improve our understanding of “the diverse historical experiences of modern Jewries.” While we wait, I highly recommend Stein’s first book Making Jews Modern: The Yiddish and Ladino Press in the Russian and Ottoman Empires (a finalist for the Koret Jewish Book Award in 2004).
Jan Lisa Huttner (Tzivi) is an award-winning Chicago critic/columnist. Visit Jan’s blog, www.SecondCityTzivi.com, for a complete online archive of all JUF News columns plus additional news, interviews, and reviews. Send comments and/or suggestions for future columns to Tzivi@msn.com.