Besa: The Promise…a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

March 20, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
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A moral code that must be honoured in word and deed is at the heart of Besa:The Promise, a story of faith, decency and humanity that has waited decades to be told.

Norman Gershman, a renowned Jewish-American photographer, goes searching for the Albanian Muslims who took in and sheltered Jews during the German Occupation of Albania during World War II.

In modern Tirana we meet Rexheb Hoxha and learn of his quest to fulfil the promise he made to his late father, Rifat.

During the Occupation, Rifat gave sanctuary in his home to Nissim and Sarah Aladjem and their son Aron, a Jewish family from Bulgaria.   He did this at extreme risk to his family. His was not the only Muslim family to take such dangerous risks but it is their story that is the main focus of this compelling documentary.

As one survivor asks “Who ever heard of Muslims saving Jews?”

Rifat took in the family because a stranger was to be protected at all costs.  When the Aladjem’s moved on, Nissim left three Hebrew  prayer books with Rifat for safekeeping, promising to return for them one day.  Nissim never returned and before he died Rifat charged his son with the task of returning the precious books to the Aladjem family

Besa is a righteous promise and his duty to carry it out haunts Rexheb.  For many years it was impossible for him to make the research necessary to find the Aladjem family.  But he did not give up.

Gershman is also obsessed with finishing his quest as he realises that many of the Muslim families who sheltered Jews and remember that time are nearing the end of their lives.

The eventual resolution is powerful and moving and the viewer is left with admiration for Rifat Hoxha and his countrymen.

Music by Phillip Glass adds depth and delineation to a story of belief and honour.


USA 2012



This film will be shown at the Holocaust Film Series



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