This entertaining 90-minute documentary tells the story of a group of idealistic war veterans, mostly but not all Jews, mostly from the USA and other English-speaking countries, who volunteered on the Jewish side during the Israeli war of independence in 1948 and helped to form the nucleus of what became the Israeli Air Force.
The story is framed largely through recent interviews with survivors from the original group of volunteers, all of whom were quite old when they were interviewed. Some of these guys are (or were, as some of them have since died) real characters and their stories are highly entertaining. The stories also provide fascinating glimpses into the clandestine Israeli crash-effort to evade the US arms embargo and create an effective military force within mere weeks as the British departed Palestine.
Some of the volunteers smuggled transport aircraft from the United States to Israel via circuitous routes skirting South America, North Africa and Europe. Others, who had World War 2 fighter experience, trained in secret in rickety Czech-built Messerschmitts that were later shipped to Israel, hastily reassembled and rushed into combat without even a test flight as the approaching Egyptian army was only a few miles away.
The film has a few rough edges — in particular, quite a bit of the archival film footage doesn’t match the narration — but on the whole it is a slick, fast paced, informative and satisfying production. Recommended.
I saw Above and Beyond with David Foster, whose idea it was. Maybe he will share his impressions.
One thought that came to me after watching this movie was that American and other western veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are now fighting with the Kurds are operating very much in the same spirit as those Anglosphere pilot volunteers in 1948 Israel.
The movie covers a lot of ground without going into much depth. This isn’t a criticism — there’s only so much you can fit into an hour and a half. I don’t know if the producers published a bibliography, but one way to start to learn more is to google the names of people who were mentioned in the film.
A trailer for the film is here.
A longer sample from Above and Beyond, including interviews, is here.
An article about the film is here.
The producers’ web page is here.
Variety review that quibbles about the film’s pro-Israel boosterism.
NYT review that attempts to minimize the film via insinuations of simplistic morality and heteronormativity.