BESA: The Promise

, 2012

Links —

Official website

screened at —

2014 Holocaust Film Series

“…a lesson in interfaith cooperation…” Laura Koran, CNN

Besa: The Promise was awarded Best Documentary at the Washington Jewish Film Festival and the Seattle Jewish Film Festival.

The film tells the story of the heroism of everyday Albanians during World War Two by following the extraordinary journeys of two men from very different backgrounds. Norman Gershman is a renowned Jewish-American photographer, determined to document first-person accounts of the Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Rexhep Hoxha is a Muslim-Albanian who is unwavering in his resolve to fulfill the promise made to a Jewish family that his father rescued during the Holocaust: that a set of Hebrew books that they left behind would be returned to them. For Rexhep it is more than just fulfilling his father’s words. It is part of his besa — an honor code that, among other things, pledges all Albanians to offer safe harbor to refugees. With Norman’s help, Rexhep embarks on a journey to Bulgaria and Israel and his quest initiates personal realisations about his relationship to the Jewish family that his father helped and about his Muslim faith.

Via Rexhap’s story, and interviewing other Albanian Muslims, the film depicts a nation of everyday heroes, far removed from the narrative of violent Islam and anti-Semitism that’s so often portrayed or mistaken to be all-pervasive. And, through the experiences of Norman Gershman and the first-person accounts of Jewish survivors, we hear stories of gratitude to Muslim rescuers that have gone unheard for almost seventy years. More than seven years in the making, and against the backdrop of music by Phillip Glass, Besa: The Promise presents a powerful human story that that bridges generations and religions.

86 min / English, Albanian, Hebrew (ENGLISH SUBTITLES)

Director — Rachel Goslins