Benny Brunner

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Benny Brunner
Benny Brunner in Lifta.jpg
Benny Brunner in Lifta during filming of Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe 1948
Native nameבני ברונר
Born1954 (age 63–64)
Bârlad, Romania
Notable workAl-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe 1948, The Great Book Robbery
Styledocumentary film
Parent(s)Clara Brunner (1929-); Morris Brunner (1927-1976)

Benny Brunner (Hebrew: בני ברונר‎; born 1954) is an Israeli-Dutch filmmaker, born in Bârlad, Romania and based in Amsterdam since 1986.[1][2][3] He studied film at Tel Aviv University.[3] Since the late 1980s, Brunner has written, directed and produced films about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict[1] including The Concrete Curtain, It Is No Dream, Al-Nakba and The Great Book Robbery, films about Jewish history like The Seventh Million,[4] and films concerning the modern history of the Middle East.[5] He describes himself as "a veteran leftist"[1] and his political films take the side of the 'other'.[6] Brunner has worked in the Middle East, Europe, South Africa, and the United States.[3] In addition to winning a special commendation by the Prix Europa for A Philosopher for All Seasons in 1991,[7] his films have been screened at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, the Jerusalem Film Festival, the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, and numerous international, human rights and Jewish film festivals.[6]

Early life[edit]

Born in Romania, Benny Brunner immigrated to Israel at age five. According to Guernica Magazine, Brunner's early memories include political shouting matches between his father and uncle. He was raised by socialist parents who supported David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel. While in Beer Sheva, he was a Labour supporter.[2] The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has stated that Brunner's mother, Clara, wanted him to study law, but he was 'too smart for his own good', and thought that being a filmmaker would be lucrative and provide him an opportunity to travel.[8] Brunner studied film at Tel Aviv University at the Ramat Aviv campus in the Katz Faculty of the Arts' Department of Film and Television.[3] Brunner served in the Israeli Defense Forces and is a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, during which he began to view the Israeli narrative he had learned in school as "legends of nation building." The change in his view of Zionism was at first difficult for his family to accept.[2]


Brunner left Israel in 1986 for an opportunity to make political films. He briefly stayed in London where he did freelance work during the Thatcher era. Brunner moved to the Netherlands later that year.[2]

A Philosopher for All Seasons (1990)[edit]

Brunner's most significant early work is a tribute to then-living Yeshayahu Leibowitz. It explores in particular the impact of Leibowitz's answer to the question of how one may determine who is Jewish.[9] The film won a Taurus trophy for special commendation in Non-Fiction at the Prix Europa in 1991.[7]

The Seventh Million (1995)[edit]

Based on historian Tom Segev's book of the same name, The Seventh Million explores the dilemma of Shoah survivors in finding a place in the newly established State of Israel. The film was initially considered too controversial to be aired on Israeli state television.[10] Brunner collaborated with the historian to find images to accompany the text.[11] He researched archives and propaganda footage.[11] In reaction to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, Brunner resolved to make a movie which was descriptive rather than dramatic.[11] The film shows how Holocaust survivors reacted to their treatment in Israeli society by hiding tattoos received in Nazi concentration camps and responding with depression and resentment.[11] The title and narrative are meant to portray the lasting effects of the Holocaust on modern Israeli life.[11]

Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe 1948 (1996)[edit]

Benny Brunner and historian Benny Morris during filming of Al-Nakba

Brunner describes a "watershed moment" he experienced in 1988 after reading The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 by Benny Morris, whereupon he envisioned making the book into a film. This was the impetus for his conception of Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe 1948,[2] the first documentary film to examine the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians during the birth of the state of Israel.[12] Brunner toured with Al-Nakba to discuss the subject with audiences in Israel and San Francisco.[13]

The Concrete Curtain (2004)[edit]

The film follows The Wall as further documentation of the West Bank wall and the difficulties imposed upon Palestinians. Variety noted the film for its Kafkaesque absurdism and dark humor.[14]

The Great Book Robbery (2011)[edit]

While shooting State of Suspension in 2008, Brunner stated that he read Salvage or Plunder? Israel's "Collection" of Private Palestinian Libraries in West Jerusalem by Gish Amit. He was "stunned" at the appropriation of 70,000 books by the State of Israel during the 1948 Palestinian exodus as significant to the loss of Palestinian cultural heritage and decided to make a film on the topic.[2] About 6,000 of these books continue to be held today at National Library of Israel where they are labeled as "Abandoned Property".[15]


Brunner self-describes as a former Zionist[16] who sympathizes with the Palestinian people.[2] According to Guernica, Israeli Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau accused him of "being part of an Israeli left fanning the flames of 'Jew-hatred' in Europe."[2] Ginger Foot Films has stated that Brunner "does not believe in neutrality, balance or objectivity in documentary filmmaking, especially when state power is used to dominate the occupied, underprivileged, or the 'other'."[6]

Personal life[edit]

Brunner still visits the Middle East two to three times a year. Guernica said his visits are a source of creative inspiration.[2]


Release Year Film Credits Reference
Director Writer Producer Other
1990 Romania, The Taming of the Intellectuals Yes [6]
1991 A Philosopher For All Seasons Yes [6]
1992 Cauchemar Yes [6]
1995 The Seventh Million Yes Yes [6]
1996 The Avengers Yes [6]
1997 Al-Nakba Yes Yes Yes [2][6]
2000 Blood Money Yes Yes [6]
2001 Kosher Friendly Yes Yes [6]
2002 It is No Dream Yes Yes [2][6]
2002 The Children of Abraham and Sophie Yes Yes [6]
2003 The Lobby Yes [6]
2003 The Wall Yes Yes [6]
2005 The Concrete Curtain Yes Yes [6]
2009 State of Suspension Yes DP [2][17]
2012 The Great Book Robbery Yes [2]
2014 The Érpatak Model Yes Yes DP
2015 The Hannibal Directive Yes Yes Yes


  1. ^ a b c Aferet, Ofer (7 Dec 2012). "Preserving or looting Palestinian books in Jerusalem". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Aburawa, Arwa (1 Feb 2011). "Palestine's Great Book Robbery". Guernica Magazine. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  3. ^ a b c d "The artists". Malmö Konsthall. Archived from the original on 2007-01-20. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  4. ^ "The Seventh Million". San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Retrieved Jan 28, 2013.
  5. ^ "Middle East and North Africa". University of California, Berkeley. Archived from the original on February 17, 2013. Retrieved Jan 28, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Biography Benny Brunner". Ginger Foot Films. Archived from the original on 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  7. ^ a b "PRIX EUROPA 1991 - AWARDS" (PDF). Prix Europa. Retrieved Jan 28, 2013.
  8. ^ "Biography". San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
  9. ^ Gans, Evelien (1994). Gojse nijd & joods narcisme (PDF). Uitgeverij Arena. pp. 62, 69. ISBN 9789069741178. Retrieved 2013-01-28. A Philosopher for all seasons, een film van Benny Brunner over de filosoof Yeshayahu Leibowitz, op 26 mei 1991 uitgezonden door de Humanistische Omroep Stichting, die ook een brochure maakte van de integrale tekst. Leibowitz overleed in augustus 1994 op eenennegentigjarige leeftijd.
  10. ^ "The Seventh Million - The Israelis and the Holocaust". International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Retrieved 28 Jan 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e Dupont, Joan (26 Jul 1995). "Film Takes on Israeli Taboo". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 Jan 2013.
  12. ^ "Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe of 1948". San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Archived from the original on 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2012-12-21. AL-NAKBA is the first documentary to examine the tragedy that accompanied the birth of the state of Israel in 1948 - the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians.
  13. ^ Joshua Schuster (31 Jul 1998). "Commentary: `Al-Nakba' screening inspires fiery political exchange". Jweekly. Retrieved 2012-12-06. So after the film, the two directors, Jansse from Amsterdam and Benny Brunner, a Jew raised in Israel, along with David Biale, a professor of Jewish history at the Graduate Theological Union, answered questions for 45 minutes.
  14. ^ Harvey, Dennis (2005-10-12). "The Concrete Curtain". Variety. Retrieved 2013-01-28.
  15. ^ The Great Book Robbery: Background
  16. ^ "Looting Books from Palestinian Libraries: Dark stories". The Economist. 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2013-02-03.
  17. ^ "State of Suspension". Complete Index to World Film. Retrieved 2012-12-21.

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