Life & Culture

Never Stop Dreaming TV review: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres - A starry homage to an Israeli political giant

With its outdated style this documentary could have been made decades ago but with a subject this fascinating - and interviews with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Barbra Streisand - this is unmissable television


Netflix | ★★★★★

I guess those Netflix algorithms are ever doing their thing because up popped new arrival to the streaming service, Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres.

Turns out it was actually made a few years ago, and let’s get the criticism out of the way, it feels like it could have been made decades before. This is documentary making 101; talking heads, footage and photos, voiceover, insipidly emotive music track, credits.

The result is similar to an expensive corporate video, with no concessions to any of the techniques and innovations from this millennium that have spurred the medium forward to new levels of artistry. What a failed opportunity then, when the dynamism and boldness of the presentation doesn’t do credit to the dynamism and boldness of the subject. Although to be fair, when the subject’s Shimon Peres, that’s a pretty tall order.

Fortunately, when there’s a story of this scope, this fascinating, and this impressive, it would not have mattered if this was made on Betamax — let alone having the calibre of narrator of George Clooney, or the prestige of talking heads escalating from Blair, Clinton, Bush, Obama, before culminating at the peak — Barbra Streisand.

That we also get to hear straight from the source, with the frank and wry Peres guiding us through his life, suggests he put as much thought put into his legacy, as everything else he set his mind to achieving.

The bulk of his accomplishments, the dream of the title, is in the creation of Israel and its development through to today. It was Peres himself who had the clarity of thought many many decades before to recognise the country’s path to success, “small in land, great in knowledge”.

More than that, he was directly responsible for making it happen and laying the seeds for its aeronautical industry, its status as a nuclear power, and even its present day tech and internet boom.

Through Peres’s story, you get Israel’s story, and from this young farmer with no high school diploma becoming a protegé to Ben-Gurion, through to the Nobel Peace Prize, you can literally see a vision being made real from the efforts of giants.

As Peres is the last person standing, or more aptly running all the way until his death in 2016 at 93, he gets in the last word of those generations, which might lend itself to hagiography if not for the evidence of his achievements, and the evidence of his character from which the former flows.

There are fascinating details exposed, particularly around the charm, determination and fluid thinking necessary to enlist France’s help in obtaining a nuclear power station. But what is driven home in this long film for a long life, isn’t just the impact that one person can make for the betterment of their people, it’s that they can do so again and again and again. Jewish or not, Israeli or not, that’s an inspiration to us all.

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