Netflix’s The Red Sea Diving Resort is live on the streaming service today. We weren’t at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival to see the world premiere, but we do think that it’s important to take a look at the very real events that inspired the film before we take a look at Chris Evan’s first project after hanging up Captain America’s shield.
The film’s premise is pretty straight forward: a group of international agents use a deserted resort to smuggle some refugees out of hostile territory. The thing is, most Americans aren’t taught about the humanitarian crisis the Ethiopians faced throughout the 70s and 80s. “The Red Terror” might spark some distant memory from the single day in history class where the teacher name dropped The Derg. But, by and large, public school hasn’t spent a lot of time discussing the tragedy that went down for over a decade.
The Red Sea Diving Resort gets a little bit more specific and focuses on the plight of the Ethiopian Jews. It’s based on a book that’s based on a top-secret operation, meaning that not only is there likely a lot lost in translation, but we’ve gone through several languages at this point. The book in question is Mossad Exodus. The mission, as far as I can tell, is Operation Brothers (which includes Operation Moses). There’s a lot of words in there that all make sense separately, so let’s break things down a bit further.
The Mossad is Israel’s intelligence agency. It’s been around since the late ’40s and has run a whole host of counter terrorist and otherwise top-secret operations during its tenure. The two aforementioned revolved around their humanitarian efforts during The Ethiopian Civil War. Operation Brother spans a long period of time, running from 1979 all the way to 1985. War has a lot of bureaucracy involved, but human beings fleeing for their lives often don’t have time for years of red tape.
In 1983, a huge wave of refugees attempted to flee to Israel. News of the success of many who fled had spread wide over the years, but when Melaku Teferra (one of the most feared members of the Derg, now serving a death sentence in prison for his crimes) was ousted, things got much worse. His successor lifted the restrictions on travel, leading to the Ethiopian Jews fleeing for refuge in droves. The Mossad was unable to evacuate them in time. Up to five thousand people died in the camps.
After such a huge loss of human life, The United States and the Sudanese government finally intervened. Operation Moses took place, resulting in over six thousand Ethiopian Jews being evacuated to Europe, and then eventually to Israel. Later, the 494 remaining refugees who had been left in the Sudan were evacuated directly to Israel. Though the initial response time left something to be desired, the evacuation of the remaining refugees was largely because of pressure applied by the US government.
As you can see, The Red Sea Diving Resort covers a messy and rarely discussed topic of world history. Israeli Director Gideon Raff (Prisoners of War, Homeland) is at the helm after also writing the script for the film. After the initial trailer launched, some folks around the web commented that it looked like “White Savior: The Movie”. That’t not unfair, but it is important to note the film’s roots in historical facts despite the artistic liberties that were undoubtedly taken.
All of this is to say that I hope you check out The Red Sea Diving Resort. The story’s unlikely to play as grim as what you read above, but it’s helmed by an Israeli director and talks about an important period in history that rarely gets remembered. It may have a happier ending, and it may not. At the end of the day, I just hope it inspires you to learn more about refugees both past and, more importantly, present.
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