About this Film

It Is No Dream examines the life and times of Theodor Herzl, the journalist and playwright who was responsible for creating the political movement that led in 1948 to the creation of the Jewish state, Israel. It is the latest feature of Moriah Films, the two time Academy Award winning documentary film division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international human rights organization and NGO with over 400,000 member families.

Narrated by Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley and starring Academy Award Winner Christoph Waltz as the voice of Theodor Herzl, It Is No Dream examines how Theodor Herzl, an assimilated Jew, born into a traditional but mostly non-religious family in Budapest in 1860, was changed by the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in Paris, which he covered as a journalist in 1895. Previously, he had advocated the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity as a solution to the growing anti-Semitism of Europe. However, after witnessing the court proceedings where Dreyfus was falsely convicted of treason and the anti-Jewish demonstrations of the French public, Herzl became convinced that the only answer to the anti-Semitism that was spreading across Europe was the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, the Biblical homeland of the Jewish people. He wrote a political treatise entitled “Der Judenstaat” or “The Jewish State” that became an international bestseller, laying out his ideas for creating a new Jewish state.

It Is No Dream opens as Herzl’s life is changed by witnessing the Dreyfus trial. He then writes “Der Judenstaat”, which is rejected by almost every publisher in Europe until a small bookseller in Vienna agrees to print a small order of the books. Even when it becomes an international bestseller, Herzl’s literary circle in Vienna ridicules him, many Jewish leaders in Europe and the US condemn his ideas, and his friends and family are convinced that he has lost his grip on reality. However, a number of intellectuals, such as Max Nordau and religious leaders such as the Chief Rabbis of Paris and Basel, voice their support for Herzl’s plan to create a new Jewish state in Palestine. In a short period of time, a grass roots movement of oppressed Jews in Russia, Poland and much of Eastern Europe join Herzl’s World Zionist Organization, which holds its first international congress in Basel in 1897. In short order, the formerly assimilated Jew who wanted nothing more than to be a successful dramatist, is overseeing an organization with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of supporters. He is holding audiences with the German Kaiser, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, high ranking British cabinet ministers and politicians, the Pope, the King of Italy and other personalities. He finds backing from the English branch of the Rothschild family, which originally rejected him. Yet, despite these successes, his mission was fraught with obstacles and frustration. He is taken advantage of by Ottoman officials with whom he tries to negotiate a scheme for mass Jewish settlement in Palestine. After the infamous Kishiniev pogrom, when Great Britain offers Herzl territory in East Africa for a Jewish state as an alternative to Palestine, he is faced with angry opposition from the ranks of his Russian Jewish supporters. Herzl’s personal life is also difficult. His marriage is an unhappy one from the beginning and he is fraught with financial problems arising from personally underwriting much of the work of the Zionist movement, including its newspaper “Die Welt” (“The World”). Neglecting his health, his family and his career, Herzl inspires a movement, but dies young in 1904 at the age of 44. The film ends as the modern state of Israel is established, some 52 years after Herzl completed “Der Judenstaat”, an act that never would have occurred without the vision and the tenacity of this formerly assimilated Hungarian Jew who until his late twenties wanted nothing more than to be a successful playwright.

It Is No Dream follows Herzl as he meets with Kings, Prime Ministers, Ambassadors, a Sultan, a Pope and government ministers from Constantinople to St. Petersburg, from Paris to Berlin, from Vienna to Vilna. The film illustrates the dramatic stories of the Jews of Eastern Europe and Russia, victimized by pogroms and other anti-Jewish violence and decrees, who became the first and the strongest supporters of Herzl’s movement. It Is No Dream also presents the recollections and memoirs of those Jews who, inspired by Theodor Herzl, decided to settle in Palestine in the 1890’s and the early 1900’s. It also highlights Zionists such as Max Nordau (best selling social critic), Chaim Weizmann (Israel’s first President) and David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister), who were early adherents to the cause. And it examines Herzl’s vision for what the Jewish state would become and how he advocated peaceful co-existence between Jews and Arabs in Palestine.

It Is No Dream features rare archival film footage of the period and never before seen stills and artifacts. New material has also been shot in the places that Herzl lived and visited. Working with the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, the production team was given access to the original manuscripts of Herzl’s plays, diaries and his handwritten version of “Der Judenstaat”. A rare first edition of the booklet was also filmed for the documentary. Israeli President and Nobel laureate Shimon Peres appears in the film, discussing his recollections as a young boy growing up in a small Polish town about Herzl’s importance in his upbringing and how his family was inspired by him to become Zionists and move to Palestine in 1934.

Co-written and produced by two-time Academy Award winner Rabbi Marvin Hier and co-written, produced and directed by Academy Award winner Richard Trank, It Is No Dream is the twelfth production of Moriah Films and is slated for theatrical release in the Fall of 2012.

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