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Shimon Peres Doc “Never Stop Dreaming” Aims to Inspire World Leaders

The film is punctuated by world leaders speaking of their experiences with Peres, among them British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
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August 11, 2022
Courtesy Netflix

Here is one film that should be added to the top of the Netflix queue of every world leader (yes, world leaders watch Netflix too): “Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres.” 

The documentary, produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s film division, Moriah Films, began filming during the final months of Prime Minister Peres’ life before he suffered a stroke and passed away in September of 2016 at 93. 

The film is punctuated by world leaders speaking of their experiences with Peres, among them British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Moving the film along is the narration of actor George Clooney. 

Peres’ door was always open to director Richard Trank and Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Wiesenthal Center.

“The film was originally going to be about this amazing 92, almost 93-year-old man who is going around lecturing and inspiring people,” Trank told the Journal. “I finished all the principal interviews by July [of 2016]. And then we were making arrangements to go with [Peres] to China after the High Holy Days and I had a conversation with him. I was in his hometown in Vishnyeva, Belarus on his 93rd birthday, and I sent him a picture from there, and he called me. He said, ‘Oh yeah, I see you taking selfies in front of my house!’ And then we were talking about the next trip and in fact, Rabbi Hier and I were going to be in Israel during the High Holy Days. We were talking about getting together and seeing him. And then a month later, tragically, he suffered the stroke which then took his life in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. So then our film became a legacy film.”

Even into his 90s, Peres had a presence on social media and was curious about the reach that the entertainment community had and what it could do to help improve Israel’s international relations. He had been an early supporter of Israel’s tech industry and Silicon Valley — which is covered in the film. In the early 1950s when Israel’s economy was languishing, Peres was talking about Israel one day leading the world in medical research. There were people in Israel who said Peres was not realistic and Israel should be more focused on feeding its people and stabilizing its economy. But as the documentary shows, Peres had big dreams that persisted, even while some people dismissed him as being nothing but a big dreamer.

Director Trank and Rabbi Hier won an Academy Award for producing the 1997 documentary “The Long Way Home” about Jewish Holocaust refugees and their work to create the State of Israel after World War II. The documentary was one of only a handful of films not named “Titanic” to win an Oscar that year. Hier also produced the 1981 documentary “Genocide,” the first Holocaust film to win an Academy Award. 

Although Peres didn’t live to see the Abraham Accords signed, the release of “Never Stop Dreaming” on Netflix comes with fortuitous timing as progress and hope continues with Israel’s relationship with Arab states. The filmmakers hope that their film can inspire a positive step forward in those relationships. 

“This is [streaming] in 90 countries and many Arab countries, all of Europe,” said Rabbi Hier. “It’s going to tell the people who are watching that Israel is not your enemy, that maybe your country should be like Israel. Maybe you should sign on to what’s happening now in the UAE and in Bahrain to be part of the new phenomena [Abraham Accords].”

The filmmakers distilled the two-hour documentary from over 60 hours of interviews and many years of research. 

“Everyone who knows anything about Shimon Peres, he was a man of the world,” Rabbi Hier told The Journal. “He loved Hollywood and if he knew, if he were alive, that Netflix is going to tell his life story to the world, as my mother would say in the Yiddish, ‘he would kvell!”

From the testimony of influential world leaders, a history of Peres’ life and an exploration of the philosophy of his leadership, “Never Stop Dreaming” is a primer for heads of state to navigate the often murky waters of diplomacy. 

From the testimony of influential world leaders, a history of Peres’ life and an exploration of the philosophy of his leadership, “Never Stop Dreaming” is a primer for heads of state to navigate the often murky waters of diplomacy. 

The filmmakers also expressed their anticipation for films to be screened at the under-construction Museum of Tolerance of Jerusalem, set to open in 2023. With the same message as the documentary “Never Stop Dreaming,” they hope to see the facility “encourage democracy, combat the roots of anti-Semitism and extremism, and promote regional stability, global harmony, human dignity and a love of Israel.”

“Never Stop Dreaming” has been streaming on Netflix since July 13, the day that President Joe Biden arrived in Israel, kicking off a week of diplomatic visits throughout the Middle East. The Wiesenthal Center said that the film has now been seen by millions of people across the world, from Arab countries to Asia. In late July, it was in the Top Ten films on Netflix in North America. As of this writing, the documentary continues to trend in North America, and it’s the #9th most popular movie in Israel. 

“Without Peres, Israel wouldn’t be where it is today,” said Rabbi Hier.

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