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Back to Berlin is a sombre, thoughtful documentary about the 2015 Maccabiah Games, held every four years and sometimes called the “Jewish Olympics”.
They were invented in 1912 to give Jewish people a sporting outlet owing to antisemites throughout Europe banning them from an increasing number of sports organisations and clubs, and also because burgeoning Zionism was encouraging a new kind of pioneer health and fitness.
The 2015 games were held in Berlin at the site of the notorious Nazi Olympics of 1936 – at which Hitler flounced out in a petulant rage at Jesse Owens’ victory over the master race. And so, in honour of the traditional Maccabiah motorbike rallies of the 1930s that once processed through European capitals to gather support for this new sporting event, a group of Israeli athletes, with friends and family, now ride their own motorbikes from Tel Aviv to Berlin in time for the games, as a symbolic reclaiming of the past.
They ride with the Star of David on their bikes, and wonder how this will go down in Poland and Hungary where antisemitism is on the rise. They encounter Syrian refugees and ponder their forebears’ own bitter migrant experience, but, far from showing fellow feeling, one Syrian tells them that he was taught to hate Israel. Finally, the bikers make a visit to the Nazi death camps, and look into the abyss of evil and horror.
It is a sobering experience. The games themselves are a kind of redemption, an Olympic flame of hope burning defiantly in the presence of moral darkness.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Back to Berlin review – bikers on the road to ‘the Jewish Olympics’ | Documentary films