For more 2020 AJFF previews, visit atlantajewishtimes.timesofisrael.com/two-decades-in-the-making/

Among the classic films at the festival is “Exodus,” the 3 ½-hour saga from 1960  capturing in dramatic landscapes and memorable Academy Award-winning music, risky maneuvers and steamy romance the semi-historical struggle to create a modern Israel. 

From the smuggling of Jewish Holocaust refugees to the resistance against British rule, the gorgeous superstars in this big-budget Hollywood blockbuster based on Leon Uris’ novel help us experience what it must have been like at that pivotal time in our Jewish legacy.

From a personal standpoint, I grew up hearing about our family’s connection with central character and Israeli resistance leader Ari Ben Canaan, played by “ol’ blue eyes,” Paul Newman. My mother must have been obsessed with the sex symbol of her youth because she named her youngest and only son based on the fictional character. My brother’s first name is different, but his middle and last names are similar to the protagonist’s, Ben Kayne. 

So while I didn’t watch the film until much later – this is its 60th anniversary – I knew about it for as long as I can remember. 

When I decided to preview “Exodus,” I asked my mom what it was about the film that inspired her so. As my mom is my main role model and influencer, the one who exposed me to all things cultural, I value her opinion and perhaps you will too.  

“I loved reading the book,” she said. “I was a teenager at the time, so I fell in love with some of the characters.”

Of course, Newman, but also Sal Mineo as Dov Landau, John Derek as Taha and Eva Marie Saint as Newman’s American love interest, Kitty Fremont.

“I found that it was a great epic film and the music gave me chills, and still does. … I love Israel.”

You will too after watching this film.

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