Since 2011, the International Christian Embassy, an evangelist organisation, has been sponsoring the organisation of a beauty contest in Haifa reserved for female survivors of the Holocaust living in a retirement home. Following the journey of Sophie Leibowitz, competing for the 2016 title, Eytan Ipecker questions the “showbusinessification“ of the memory of the Shoah for political purposes.
1. One of the contest organisers haggles in a shop, insisting on the fact that the recipients of the purchases are Miss Holocaust contestants. 2. The voiceover presentation of the 2013 winner (to loud music) is set against images of extermination camp survivors displayed outside a building. With these two opening sequences, “The Pageant” arouses a chilling sense of unease. But rather than exploiting the polemical potential of this contest to the full, the film seeks to embrace the complexity of its subject through its close-up view of the protagonists and its restrained effects. The funds raised by the evangelic organisation’s exploitation of the Shoah and these women’s personal accounts pay for a survivors’ retirement home. More generally, “The Pageant” exposes the ambiguous practices (endless charity appeals, exhibiting trauma and the omnipresence of religion) throughout Israeli society – that, for some, fuel the country’s nationalism.
Journalist and critic
Born in Istanbul in 1981, a New York University graduate and co-founder of the production company Kamara, Turkish director and editor Eytan Ipeker presented his first feature, “The Pageant” in 2015 after a short (“Unmade Bed”) and a medium-length film (“Idil Biret: The Portrait of a Child Prodigy”). His experimental shorts have been screened in numerous international festivals including Toronto and Edinburgh. He lived in Tel Aviv between the ages of 2 and 6 and is a member of Istanbul’s Jewish community.