The pioneers of the kibbutz movement in the 1920s and ’30s were passionate adherents of prevailing socialist ideals and applied them as faithfully as possible. In practice, that meant privileging physical labor over intellectual activity, and the group over the individual. Perhaps most radically, it meant all but eradicating the family unit as we know it. Children were placed in a nursery virtually at birth, and were raised by nannies, amid their peers, spending at most an hour or two a day with their parents.
Filmmaker Ran Tal’s grandparents were among those pioneers, and their children—his parents—were products of the social experiment they launched. For his documentary Children of the Sun, Tal interviewed several dozen kibbutzniks of his parents’ generation, mining their memories for details about everything from bedtime rituals to calisthenic drills. Their words, alternately matter-of-fact, proud, bemused, and bitter, serve as accompaniment to archival footage taken from amateur films shot on kibbutzim between 1930 and 1970.
Nextbook talks to Tal in Tel Aviv about how and why he made the film, and about the conversations it has prompted among the thirty thousand Israelis who have seen the film since its release.
Children of the Sun will screen at Jewish film festivals in St. Petersburg, Russia and Rochester, New York this summer. In addition, it is slated to air on the Sundance Channel, date to be determined.
Stills from Children of the Sun
Photos courtesy of Ran Tal.