By Lynn Venhaus
Known as “The Iron Lady of Israel,” Golda Meir was a shrewd, smart, intuitive and empathetic leader during a tumultuous time. The film “Golda” focuses on three horrific weeks when her country was in serious jeopardy, and the decisions she made then.

During her term as prime minister from 1969 to 1974, Meir not only had to deal with the surprise attack by Egypt and Syria in 1973, but also the tragic deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Summer Olympics in 1972.

Set during the tense 19 days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Meir (Helen Mirren) must navigate overwhelming odds, a skeptical cabinet, and a complex relationship with the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Liev Schreiber). Millions of lives are in the balance.

In a cloud of cigarette smoke, Mirren is transformed into the Ukrainian-born head of state, who lived in the U.S. in her younger days, and became a prominent activist and politician after moving to Palestine with her husband in 1917. She was one of two women who signed Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.

Meir is a fascinating historical figure, but you won’t find out her backstory or much information about her life other than the period the movie focuses on, which is detrimental to its appeal. But Mirren depicts her revered toughness without being showy.

The 78-year-old actress is practically unrecognizable, with an expert job done by Karen Hartley on hair and make-up design and Suzi Battersby on prosthetic design. Hunched over, defiantly chain-smoking (up to and after her cancer treatments), and walking in comfortable orthopedic shoes, Mirren assumes the persona as a courageous, maternal grandmother.

She’s not the only Oscar winner to tackle playing Golda. In her final role, Ingrid Bergman won an Emmy for the 1982 TV-movie “A Woman Called Golda,” and Anne Bancroft played the role in William Gibson’s play on Broadway.

With its focus on the maneuverings in The War Room, we only hear the terrified cries of soldiers in combat, and don’t see that action up close and personal. That’s director Guy Nattiv’s choice, but the film feels remote and stodgy without war scenes.

He specifically uses cigarettes and the act of smoking as part of the storytelling, and overflowing ashtrays are meant to signify passage of time. But the billowing smoke becomes distracting, and its heavy use debatable.

Nattiv may have intended his film to be more like a thriller, but its serious-mindedness turns it dull at times. He and his wife, Jaime Ray Newman, won an Academy Award in 2019 for their short film “Skin,” which looks at a reformed neo-Nazi and racism.

Screenwriter Nicholas Martin, who wrote the 2016 movie starring Meryl Streep as socialite singer “Florence Foster Jenkins,” concentrates on the complex Meir’s total commitment to her country. He chronicles Israel’s course of action during the crushing losses, makes it personal, and touches upon the career-ending controversy by showing the Agranat Commission investigating Meir regarding the high number of casualties: 2,656 dead soldiers and 7,251 injured; 294 prisoners of war had been captured by the enemy

Nattiv uses archival footage sparingly to give us the bare minimum of facts.

In a brief but pivotal role, Liev Schreiber portrays U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as an ally helping to negotiate peace, but with steely resolve, Meir gets the support and assistance she wants in a face-to-face meeting at her modest home.

Camille Cotton is memorable as compassionate longtime personal assistant Lou Kaddar.

Rami Heuberer is Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who was blamed for the unpreparedness of the Israeli Army, decimated by invading Syrians and Egyptians, and this ended his career as well.

The supporting cast includes other advisors – Lior Ashkenazi as Chief of Staff David “Dado” Elazar and Ohad Knoller as Field General Ariel Sharon (a future prime minister), as they hash out strategies.

The string-heavy score by Dascha Dauenhauer underscores the high stakes and the human toll. And this story takes place in the early ‘70s, so the sound design by Niv Adiri to make it sound authentic is noteworthy.

Meir died in 1978, at age 80, from lymphoma. She lived long enough to witness the infamous Camp David Accords that led to a peace treaty signed by Israel’s Prime Minister Menachim Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with President Jimmy Carter.

While Mirren’s performance as a major historical figure is praise-worthy, the film is a missed-opportunity drama. In theory, it should have been more captivating, and in execution, much more dramatic and gripping.

“Golda” is a 2023 biographical historical drama directed by Guy Nattiv and starring Helen Mirren, Liev Schreiber, Camille Cotton, Zed Josef, Lior Ashkenazi, Ohad Knoller, and Rami Heuberer. It is rated PG-13 for thematic material and pervasive smoking and the runtime is 1 hour, 40 minutes. It opens in theatres Aug. 25. Lynn’s Grade: C+.

Note: this review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Helen Mirren as Golda

The 25th Annual St. Louis Jewish Film Festival will have a new and exciting look and feel this year. From Sunday, November 9 through Thursday, November 15 the Festival will present a wonderful selection of 12 documentary and narrative feature films from around the world virtually, so you can watch them in the comfort of your home…either on your computer or TV! While all films depict a slice of the Jewish experience, the films are universal and meant to be appealing to all, regardless of faith.

Music and Broadway play a big part in this year’s festival including Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles, an incredible tale of the world wide influence of the famous musical, Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds, a portrait of Zuben Mehta, Conductor of the Israeli Philharmonic and Crescendo a feature about young Palestinian and Israeli musicians who try to find common ground through music. Remarkable historic figures will be showcased in The Spy Behind Home Plate, a documentary about Mo Berg, professional baseball player and Spy during WWII, and Golda, a window into the life and career of Israel’s only female Prime Minister. Holy Silence, looks into the role of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust and Shared Legacies examines the shared struggles of Blacks and Jews in the US. There is also a comedy called Love in Suspenders.  Features originate from France, Germany, Uzbekistan, Israel, Poland and the United States.

Many of the filmmakers will be on hand for interactive film discussions the week of the Jewish Film Festival. For a complete list of films and discussions, go to

All films will be available for viewing throughout the festival and screened virtually through the film platform Eventive.  Ticket prices are $14 for each individual film and for the first time an all access pass can be purchased for $95. View the complete Film Festival schedule and buy tickets at starting on September 8.

This year’s Jewish Film Festival co-chairs are Marilyn K. Brown, Jeffrey Korn and Paula Sigel. The Jewish Film Festival is a program of the Jewish Community Center.

The J is an interactive, multi-generational gathering place that offers a variety of programs and services to both the St. Louis Jewish community, and the community at large. The Jewish Community Center provides educational, cultural, social, Jewish identity-building and recreational programming and offers two, state-of-the art fitness facilities, all designed to promote physical and spiritual growth. Everyone is welcome at the J.