BESA: The Promise + Intro and Q&A

BESA: The Promise + Intro and Q&A (12A)

Dir: Rachel GoslinsCast: Norman H. Gershman, Rexhep Hoxha82 mins, 2012, USAPlease note: this was screened in April 2014

More than seven years in the making this fascinating and moving documentary is the untold story of the men and women of Albania – almost all of them Muslims – who saved the lives of nearly two thousands Jews by facing down the Nazis armed only with their traditional honor code of besa (honour).

This tale of heroism was nearly lost forever in the communist decades that followed World War II. It’s a story that’s brought to light through the stories of two men joined together in a remarkable and unexpected quest. One is Norman H. Gershman, a renowned Jewish-American photographer who is determined to record the bravery and compassion of the Albanians. The other is Rexhep Hoxha, a shopkeeper from Tirana, Albania, who asks Norman to help him locate a Jewish family his Muslim parents sheltered during the war. This family, he tells Norman, entrusted his father with three Hebrew books, books that – under the ancient Albanian code of besa – must now be returned.

The journey that unfolds is extraordinary. With its thoroughly researched history and its profoundly emotional storytelling style, BESA: The Promise challenges some of the most fundamental assumptions about the presumed enmity between Islam and Judaism and eloquently reminds us of the power of good people to transform the way we view our world.

BESA: The Promise features in-depth interviews with survivors and rescuers, never-before-seen archival footage, an exquisite series of animations, and a powerful and moving original score by one of America’s foremost living composers, Philip Glass.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with panel members Shabana Kausar (Manager, Salaam Shalom) and Valerie Russell Emmott (Chair, Bristol HMD steering group).

Part of Bristol Holocaust Memorial Day’s programme of events ‘Journeys: Then and Now’ FFI visit

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