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blessedisthematchposterBlessed Is The Match – The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh is the heartbreaking World War II story of a young Jewish women, Hannah Senesh, who’d emigrated from Hungary to Palestine, but later joined the British Army, parachuted into Yugoslavia and tried to sneak into her native country in a valiant attempt to save the Jewish community–including her mother–from death at the hands of Hungarian Nazis.

A Harrowing Holocaust Story

In 1944, Hannah was living safely in Palestine, but she was worried about her family still in Hungary and she volunteered for a clandestine military mission to parachute into Yugoslavia, sneak across the border into Hungary and attempt to rescue the Jewish community–including Catherine, her mother–and lead them to safety. The film makes the point that, shamefully, this was the only such military rescue mission attempted during World War II.

Unfortunately, Hannah was captured while trying to cross the border from Yugoslavia to Hungary, and was immediately imprisoned by the Hungarian fascists. She spent the remainder of her life in prison, actually incarcerated across a court from her mother. Hannah refused to disclose any information about the mission or secret radio codes that might put her compatriots in harms way. As the war was coming to an end, she was shot to death.

Filmmaker Roberta Grossman creates a truly moving memorial to Hannah by using archival footage and photographs to introduce us to her, and to show us what her comfortable well-to-do childhood was like, and how that began to change with the death of her father and the increasing influence of fascism in Hungary. Hannah was a joyful and courageous young woman, a gifted poet and diarist.

A Modern Joan of Arc

Hannah is often referred to as a modern Joan of Arc, but in some ways her story is more reminiscent of that of another well known Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, whose diaries have moved so many and inspired theatrical production and film.

Like Anne, Hannah expressed her thoughts, beliefs and dreams in diaries that survived her. Grossman laces the films voice over narration–read by the wonderful Joan Allen–with Hannah’s poems and excerpts from her diaries. To show important moments in Hannah’s life–including what happened during her mission and imprisonment–Grossman effectively weaves dramatic reenactment into the film’s narrative line. The reenactments are very well acted and beautifully shot. We also get to meet Hannah’s mother, who survived her daughter and speaks of her poignantly, and several other survivors who were imprisoned with Hannah.

Hannah is a revered heroine in Israel and Hungary, but she‘s not as well known here in the U.S. This beautiful tribute film should change that, and it‘s about time.

Film Details:

Title: Blessed Is The Match – The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh
Director: Roberta Grossman
Release Date: 2008 in limited release
Running Time: 86 mins.
Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
Location: Czech Republic, Israel, Hungary
Language: English, Hebrew, Hungarian
Company: The Katahdin Foundation, Balcony Releasing
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Copyright Jennifer Merin
All rights reserved

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