7 Days in Entebbe (2018): Jose Padilha’s Controversial Docu of Israeli Rescue

The Focus Features thriller 7 Days in Entebbe makes its world premiere at the 2018 Berlin Film Fest.

The film chronicles the 1976 Israeli rescue mission of a hijacked Air France jet en route from Tel Aviv to Paris, shedding new light on the events, which, among other things, claimed the life of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s older brother.

For decades, the Israeli Prime Minister has claimed that “Yoni” was the key hero who ensured the rescue of all but four of the 106 hostages and was killed by a terrorist from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine at the end of the raid.

But in the film, Yoni (Angel Bonanni) plays a less significant role in the mission and is shot by a Ugandan soldier earlier in the mission. The hijackers diverted the jet to Uganda where dictator Idi Amin welcomed them.

“It’s not a narrative that the Israeli Prime Minister is going to like at all,” says historian Saul David, whose book Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport serves as the basis for Gregory Burke’s screenplay. “He’s put a lot of pressure, even on people who are involved in the story. I mean he hasn’t actually said, ‘Change the story.’ But, ‘This is the way it happened, didn’t it’?”

The Entebbe operation has been portrayed in Israeli films, including 1977’s Operation Thunderbolt with Klaus Kinski and a docu of the same name in 2000, in which the younger Netanyahu participated. The storylines have always followed his family’s version.

But in 2015, when British producers at Working Title heard that David was working on a book with new revelations, they optioned it.

Director Jose Padilha (Narcos) was determined to keep the story accurate: “It was very important to me to try to get as many details right as possible.  We talked to lots of people who were there at the time, including five or six soldiers who were part of the raid itself. The criteria was to run with direct witnesses, as opposed to people who said ‘I heard’ or ‘I believe’ it was like this.”

Padilha enlisted Amir Ofer, a former member of the Israeli Defense Force and a veteran of the raid, as technical adviser.

Focus Features has screened the film, which stars Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl as Germany-born terrorists, for foreign policy experts who reportedly gave positive feedback.