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Review: 'Kibbutz Experiment,' then and now

'Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment' is an engrossing look at a movement that's still evolving.

June 08, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • Children from Kibbutz Hulda, 1948, as seen in "Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experience," a film by Toby Perl Freilich.
Children from Kibbutz Hulda, 1948, as seen in "Inventing Our Life:… (First Run Features )

It's startling to consider that the state of Israel as we know it might not exist without the more than century-old kibbutz movement. That assertion, along with the historical highlights of both modern Israel and its kibbutzim, are efficiently examined in the absorbing documentary "Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment."

The film lays out how the movement began in 1909 as an attempt by Eastern European émigrés to establish a utopian community — one based on sharing and equality — in what was then Palestine. It grew into an influential, revolutionary, sometimes divisive faction of settlers aiming to "invent their own life" while also, in many cases, escaping European anti-Semitism.

Over time, the once solely-agrarian kibbutz system saw significant growth and decline plus shifts in its core policies due to evolving economic, political and generational realities. The result: Today only one-quarter of Israel's 270 remaining kibbutzim are communally run (the rest are privatized), a quantum change that, as evenhandedly discussed here, has proven crucial to the system's survival.

Producer-writer-director Toby Perl Freilich utilizes strong archival footage, incisive interviews with three generations of kibbutz members, input from various Israeli academics and tours of actual kibbutzim to flesh out this vital movement's past and present. It all makes for an enlightening and evocative snapshot.

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"Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment." No MPAA rating; In English and Hebrew with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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