Back to Berlin (3 stars)

Back To Berlin

A group of motorcyclists take an emotional journey from Tel Avi to Berlin for the year's Jewish Maccabi Games

The past and the present are inextricably linked in Back to Berlin, a modest but moving documentary following a group of eleven Israeli bikers on the road from Tel Aviv to Berlin.

The bikers are emulating a similar journey in the early 1930s when riders set out from the British Mandate of Palestine to Europe spreading the word about the first Maccabi Games, a sporting event designed for Jewish athletes from around the world.The modern bikers carry with them the Maccabi torch to Berlin's Olympic Stadium, to spark the year's games.

The journey itself is uneventful; vast distances are covered efficiently and with little incident. Director Catherine Lurie's approach would not seem out of place on a workmanlike television production. What matters are the personalities who emerge during a 3,000 mile trip in which the bikers visit key sites associated with Nazi atrocities from the the central synagogue in Bucharest to the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw and Auschwitz.

The film is almost a variation on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as each of the pilgrims has a story to tell of family members who died during the Holocaust and the precious few who survived. Visiting the sites makes everything more immediate for the bikers but, strangely, it is the stark black and white images from the past that will have a bigger impact for the viewer.

The combination of the testimony and the images brings history alive and there are thematic similarities with Peter Jackson's recent They Shall Not Grow Old as Lurie strives to give a voice to those individuals we see in faded photos and vintage footage. We start to see them as someone's sister or father or blood relative. The trip is particularly telling for Danny Maron because his father survived; the 78 year-old Yoran is one of the bikers on an emotional journey into Berlin.

Limited release from Fri 23 Nov.

Back to Berlin

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • UK / Bulgaria / Czech Republic
  • 1h 19min
  • Directed by: Catherine Lurie, Catherine Lurie-Alt
  • UK release: 23 November 2018

Documentary following eleven Israeli bikers travelling from Tel Aviv to Berlin, emulating a journey taken in the 1930s by riders from the British Mandate of Palestine; all of the bikers have family members who were in the Holocaust. The journey itself is uneventful but the stories of the riders and their families have the…