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The Darien Dilemma

The Untold Story of 1000 Stranded Jews in WWII

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The Darien Dilemma


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A father and his filmmaker son explore the untold story of 1000 Jews from Vienna stranded on the frozen Danube River in the winter of 1941 as they await the life or death decision of their rescue by Ruth Klieger and other Mossad agents who control their fate.

In a hotel in Istanbul Ruth Klieger and her fellow agents from the newly created Mossad (Israeli Secret Service) have spent months planning the rescue of the stranded Jewish youth. They bought a ship, the Darien, to transport the youth from Yugoslavia to Palestine. But days before the ship is set to sail, Ruth receives word from the leadership in Tel Aviv that the Darien has been sold to the British to be used in a sabotage attack against the Germans. A heated debate ensues among Ruth and the other agents: do they hand over the Darien to the British as ordered, or do they defy their leaders in Tel Aviv and rescue the desperate refugees waiting along the banks of the Danube?

Laufer Nachum, the father, set out to tell a story about his mother‘s escape from Europe when he came upon the story of another woman, Ruth, "The Lady of the Mossad." His obsession with Ruth takes him into the bowels of his country’s secret past.

Erez, the filmmaker son, creates a unique story within a story, weaving together documentary footage of his father’s quest to tell Ruth’s story, with the moral dilemma facing Ruth, performed by actors and written by his father.

Blurring the lines between documentary and fiction, reality and obsession, the Darien Dilemma is a story about a son’s homage to his father’s search to understand a woman’s life and death decision and the history that connects them all.

Erez Laufer was born and raised in Israel, and graduated from the Film and Television department at Tel-Aviv University.

His film Mike Brant-Laisse Moi T'aime won the 2002 Israeli Academy Award for Best Documentary for 2002, and had its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival 2003.

He has worked on numerous projects with renowned filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker, including the Oscar-nominated The War Room, a three-part series celebrating Woodstock's 25th anniversary called Woodstock Diary, the documentary Startup.com, and Only the Strong Survive.

In 2001, Erez joined with "Steps For the Future," an international collaboration of filmmakers working on an HIV/AIDS film campaign project for South Africa, and in 2003 he joined the Africa 10 team to work on a series of films for the 10 year anniversary of South African Independence.

Together with his father, he has recently completed the Darien Dilemma film.

" The film enlightens a less known corner of the terrible era, the tragic non-heroic story of the illegal immigration, though the characters are real heroes. From the educational point of view "The Darien Dilemma" can be a lever, an eye opener for deliberation on what can be seen as a side-issue in the big puzzle, but it is definitely relevant to national and social questions [...] From my experience in "teaching' the Holocaust era and my work in 'Meshoa' as academic- pedagogic consultant I believe in educational value of 'The Darien Dilemma'. The film opens for discussion questions that till now we didn't deal with, though they are important both as unique and universal questions." 

Nili Keren - Researcher of Holocaust Education and Academic-Pedagogic advisor at "Meshoa" Institute Kibbutz Tel -Itzhak


"A fascinating Documentary film "The Darien Dilemma", Ruth the Mossad Agent attempts to save a 1000 Jews from Europe during World War II, reveals a shivering conflict between the private and national interests, and brings us to reflect again if the Yishuv (The Jewish authorities of Palestine-Israel at that time) did enough […] the film reminds him of Shindler’s List, Spielberg’s Holocaust epic, with one big difference: In Shindler’s List a 1000 Jews that were saved from certain death by one man, in the Darien saga a 1000 Jews that should have been saved were murdered."   Dan Shador - Globes Newspaper

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