Leningrad, 1970. A group of young Jewish dissidents who were denied exit visas, plot to hijack an empty plane and escape the USSR. 45 years later, filmmaker Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov reveals the compelling story of her parents, leaders of the group, "heroes" in the West but "terrorists" in Russia.
It started as a fantasy, Operation Wedding, as outrageous as it was simple: Under the disguise of a trip to a local family wedding, the hijackers would buy every ticket on a small 12-seater plane, so there would be no passengers but them, no innocents in harm’s way. The group’s pilot, who once flew for the Red Army, would take over the controls and fly the 16 runaways into the sky, over the Soviet border, on to Sweden, bound for Israel.
They were caught in the airport, a few steps from boarding the plane, and tried for high treason. Among those arrested remained one woman to be on trial: Sylva Zalmanson, who receives 10 years in Gulag. Sylva's newlywed husband Edward Kuznetsov, receives death sentence; they never got on the plane.
While the Soviet press writes "the criminals received their punishment", tens of thousands of people in the free world demand "Let My People Go!“ and as the Iron Curtain opens a crack for 300,000 Soviets Jews wanting to flee, the group members are held back to pay the price of freedom for everyone else.
Anat and her mother Sylva, retrace the group’s journey from a Soviet airport to a KGB prison.
Cigarettes and vodka fuel interviews with the parents filled with intelligence and humor. Archives, reenactments and interviews with KGB officers enhance this inspiring story of young Jews who imagined freedom and cracked the Iron Curtain.
"I carry both my parents’ names.
Growing up, everybody knew about this event, but over the years it started to fade away from the public's collective memory. Though there are many films trying to describe this fascinating story, they only give a short 5 minute description and the only full length films about this event were made in Russia 2010. Those films are calling the group members "terrorists" and they re-write history – false imaginary history, or as my father calls it "documentary fairytales".
I found rare archives, interviewed former KGB key members that claimed that: "…There was no problem of Jewish immigration in the USSR. Only about 20 people in the whole USSR were denied exit visa." (Philipp Boblov, former KGB deputy chairmen)
I realized that the faith of public memory is on my shoulders. This is an inspiring story that remind us all that civilians have power and even one person can change history, but would have to be willing to pay the price…"
News & Reviews
"All media coverage about the upcoming film so far"
"It is not a just-the-facts documentary, as it wears its heart on its sleeve, and the emotional pull will leave the audience breathless."
"As a filmmaker, Zalmanson-Kuznetsov’s approach is understandably straight forward, but she shows a bit of style nonetheless, including some subtly clever transitions. Very highly recommended." "
"In the Gulag Museum, Anat collapses over the rough conditions, while Sylva shows how she danced during her farm trips. Without words or music, one of the most touching dance scenes on film long seen."
"Watching this film gives us the sense of looking through a magical, miraculous window on a time the likes of which we may never see again. We can, however, experience it through Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov’s powerful, emotional, exhilarating film and come away filled with both satisfaction and hope."
"The film is emotionally strong first of all because of the mother whereas the charismatic father is the one who comes up with the sarchastic analytical comments, while he is pouring another good glass of vodka"
"Anat Zalmanson’s raison d’être in making this film was not only to counter the “alternative facts” of this episode, emanating from Putin’s regime, but also to reclaim Jewish history for today’s generation. In her hour-long film, she has succeeded exceedingly well.""
"It is safe to say that Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov has created the definitive tale of the Leningrad hijacking, and in the process, humanized the larger-than-life characters behind it. It’s hard not to pepper descriptions of the film with superlatives like heroic and courageous. It’s equally hard to stay dry-eyed throughout."
"Operation Wedding is worthy evidence of epoch, not only for viewers who directly remembers a period but perhaps even more for those who don’t have any concrete personal experiences about it."