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The Darien Dilemma

Distributed by Docs for Education, 10a Holland St., Afulla, Israel 18371; fax: 972-3-5291726
Produced by Erez Laufer Films
Directed by Erez Laufer
DVD, b&w, 90 min.
Sr. High-General Adult
Biography, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Jewish Studies, Middle East, World War II

Reviewed by Rebecca Adler Schiff, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Not Recommended   
Date Entered: 10/4/2012

The Darien Dilemma, directed by Erez Laufer, is a film based on a screenplay written by his father, Nahum. Laufer père initially set out to make a documentary film based on his escape as a five year old from the Nazis early in World War II, in great part owing to his mother‘s bravery and ingenuity. The project, however, got sidetracked and expanded by Laufer’s fascination with a woman named Ruth Klieger, who rescued thousands of European Jews in the 1930s and early ‘40s by smuggling them into Palestine one way or another, and who reminded Laufer of his mother. The Darien of the film’s title was a ship bought by Klieger’s organization for the purpose of transporting Jewish refugees to Palestine. After the British entered the war, the ship was caught up in a conflict between two factions within the organization, one that wanted to continue using the ship to transport refugees, the other that, for political purposes, wanted to offer the ship to the British to be used in an espionage operation, for example—to blow the ship up at the mouth of the Danube River, thus blocking an essential Nazi waterway. Taking refugees off the ship at that time and place would have consigned them to certain death. As it happened the second faction did not prevail, and the Darien sailed on, though the period of indecision resulted in the avoidable death of hundreds of refugees. Regrettably, though, the film we have suffers from an unnecessarily complex amalgam of documentary footage, personal testimony, scenes in which father Laufer is shown at the computer composing the film’s next segment, and invented scenarios featuring professional actors melodramatically discussing the dilemma confronting them. Interestingly, a bit of dialog is included where Erez cautions his father that the script is so meanderingly complicated that it is almost guaranteed to lose its audience! Erez’s judgement is, alas, on the mark. A straightforward narrative about the true fate of the Darien without fictional embellishment would have presented a more worthwhile undertaking.