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Film / The Long Way Home

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The Long Way Home is a 1997 documentary feature film directed by Mark Jonathan Harris.

It is a film about the aftermath of The Holocaust. The end of World War II in 1945 finds hundreds of thousands of Jews still in Nazi concentration camps. It soon becomes clear that the nations of Eastern Europe, home to bone-deep anti-Semitism that long predated the Nazis, will not welcome them home. The Kielce pogrom of 1946 convinces what is left of Polish Jewry (no more than 5% of the pre-war population of three million) that their old home is no place for them.

This leaves essentially two places for the Jews of Europe to go. One is the United States, and many do go there. The other is Palestine, the ancient home of Israel. But Palestine is a British Mandate and the British are strongly opposed to letting a huge wave of Jews come into the country. The dilemma over what to do about a Jewish homeland continues until the state of Israel is founded in 1948.

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Tropes:

  • An Immigrant's Tale: Jews looking for a homeland. The ones that come to the United States have to deal with people who don't want to hear their horror stories. The ones that try to come to Israel have to deal with worse, like the British barring the gates and putting them back in concentration camps.
  • Badass Israeli: The "Jewish Brigade" of Jews from Palestine who fought in Europe under the British flag. Even they have problems relating with the starved survivors they meet.
  • Blade-of-Grass Cut: One dramatic shot is a tight closeup on a dandelion in bloom. The focus then changes to show, in front of the dandelion, a piece of barbed wire from the fence at Dachau.
  • Book-Ends: Almost all of this film is stock footage or still pictures in classic documentary style, along with talking heads. The only live-action shots in the film are one of Dachau at the very beginning of the film, and one of a modern Israeli urban scene at the end.
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  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The film opens with the ominous tolling of a church bell in the town of Dachau.
  • Gorn: Piles of corpses in concentration camps.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used for almost every photo in the film.
  • Narrator: Morgan Freeman, born to be a narrator, narrates this film. There are also a lot of dramatic readings from the writings of Holocaust survivors.
  • Scenery Gorn: Several shots of bombed-out ruins in Europe.
  • Stock Footage: Almost all of the movie excluding the Talking Heads interview sequences—terrifying footage of concentration camps, footage of ships carrying Jewish refugees to Israel, footage of UN debates, and more.
  • Talking Heads: Many, including Jewish survivors determined to go to Israel, Jewish diplomats involved in the effort to found a Jewish state, and some other people concerned with events, namely President Harry Truman's advisor Clark Clifford.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Jews determined to take Palestine as a homeland resort to violence, the most notorious incident being the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 91 people.
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