BESA – The Promise

Jewish International Film Festival

Besa: The Promise is the intergenerational story of an Albanian Muslim who risked their lives to save Jewish people during World War II. The film has been cited as a lesson in interfaith cooperation.

The Jewish International Film Festival will be presenting the Holocaust Film Series (HFS), a series dedicated to telling stories of migration, displacement and fitting in to new communities and the effect of this on cultural and religious identity. The series features films from all around the world. The reason that we believe HFS is important is that it presents films that represent people from all backgrounds and it brings these stories of community and identity (and identity crisis) to an audience that we hope will be broader than just the Jewish community.

There is one film in particular that has a relevance to Albanians living in the Goulburn Valley. Besa: The Promise is the intergenerational story of an Albanian Muslim man who is determined to fulfil the promise that his father made to a Jewish family who he saved during the Holocaust. Through this the documentary tells the little-known-of stories about the many Albanian Muslims who risked their live to save Jewish people during World War Two.

BESA - The Promise

The film tells the story of the heroism of everyday Albanians during World War Two by following the extraordinary journeys of two men from very different backgrounds. Norman Gershman is a renowned Jewish-American photographer, determined to document first-person accounts of the Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Rexhep Hoxha is a Muslim-Albanian who is unwavering in his resolve to fulfill the promise made to a Jewish family that his father rescued during the Holocaust: that a set of Hebrew books that they left behind would be returned to them. For Rexhep it is more than just fulfilling his father’s words. It is part of his besa — an honor code that, among other things, pledges all Albanians to offer safe harbor to refugees. With Norman’s help, Rexhep embarks on a journey to Bulgaria and Israel and his quest initiates personal realisations about his relationship to the Jewish family that his father helped and about his Muslim faith.

Via Rexhap’s story, and interviewing other Albanian Muslims, the film depicts a nation of everyday heroes, far removed from the narrative of violent Islam and anti-Semitism that’s so often portrayed or mistaken to be all-pervasive. And, through the experiences of Norman Gershman and the first-person accounts of Jewish survivors, we hear stories of gratitude to Muslim rescuers that have gone unheard for almost seventy years. More than seven years in the making, and against the backdrop of music by Phillip Glass, Besa: The Promise presents a powerful human story that that bridges generations and religions.

Shepparton Interfaith Network will be undertaking to screen this film in the Goulburn Valley. You may view a trailer of this film on Vimeo:

Download a Review for BESA - The Promise (English and Albanian text)

Besa - The Promise


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