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The Beetle

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The Beetle

(Doc., Long version: 70 min.,; Short version: 52 min., DVD\Mini DV, color, 2008)
  • Written and Directed by: Yishai Orian
  • Produced by: Yishai Orian
  • Sponsored by: The 2nd Authority for Television & Radio and The New Foundation for Cinema & TV
  • Language: Hebrew, Arabic with English subtitle


Yishai Orian, the director of the movie and the owner of an old Volkswagen beetle is about to become a father. His mechanic says that the car will not last long, while his wife complains that the car is unsuitable for a baby. Attempting to keep his beloved car, Yishai goes on a journey that begins with the previous owners of the beetle, continues to Jordan to renovate the old car, and ends with the birth of his first child. The exciting, funny, sad, and intimate memories of the beetle’s previous owners blend with the director’s personal story.



  • Second Prize - Rodos Eco Films Int'l Festival, Cyprus, 2009
  • Grand Prix Award – CrossRoads International Film Festival, Lublin, Poland, 2009
  • Audience Top Ten Laurel choice, HotDocs International Film Festival, Canada, 2008
  • Nominated for the Israeli Oscar Awards for Best Documentary, 2008


  • Congregation Beth El, MA, USA, 2012
  • Temple Adas Israel, Sag Harbor, NY, 2012
  • Congregation Kerem Shalom, USA, 2012
  • Ezra Film Club, Rishon Lezion
  • Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2011
  • Temple Beth Israel, Fresno, USA, 2010
  • Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, Canada, 2010
  • Detroit Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2010
  • Isratim Film Festival, Paris, 2010
  • Plus Camerimage Int'l Film Festival, Lodz, Poland, 2009
  • Florence International "Middle East NOW" Festival, Italy, 2010
  • Montenegro Int'l TV Film Festival, 2009
  • Athens Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2010
  • Mexico City Jewish Film Festival, Mexico, 2009
  • Pitigliano Jewish Film Festival, Italy, 2009
  • CRONOGRAF Int'l Documentary Film Festival, Republic of Moldova, 2009
  • Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Canada, 2009
  • Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2010
  • Utopia JCC, USA, 2010
  • Global Peace Int'l Film Festival, Florida, USA, 2009
  • Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Rio de Janeiro Jewish Film Festival, Brazil, 2009
  • Cape Town Israeli Documentary Film Festival, South Africa, 2009
  • Sole e Luna Int'l Festival, Palermo, Italy, 2009
  • Brooklyn Int'l Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • CrossRoards of Europe Festival, Lublin, Poland, 2009
  • Delray Beach Int'l Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Krakow Int'l Film Festival, Poland, 2009
  • Israfest Israeli Film Festival, Los Angeles, USA, 2009
  • Cape Town Israeli Documentary Film Festival, South Africa, 2009
  • Sao Paulo Jewish Film Festival, Brazil, 2009
  • Zagreb Jewish Film Festival, Croatia, 2009
  • Cyprus Int'l Documentary Film Festival, 2009
  • Glasgow Jewish Film Festival, Scotland, 2009
  • Ecofilms Int'l Film and Visual Arts Festival, Greece, 2009
  • Cronograf International Documentary Film Festival, Moldova, 2009
  • Palm Beach Int'l Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Berlin Jewish Film Festival, Germany, 2009
  • Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Canada, 2009
  • Staunton Jewish Film Festival USA, 2009
  • 3 Star Cinema Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Singapore International Film Festival, 2009
  • Wisconsin International Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Rochester Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Jacob Burns Film Center, USA, 2009
  • Pittsburgh Israeli/Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Philadelphia Israeli Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Brown Israeli Film Festival, Road Island, USA, 2009
  • Ezra Film Club, Israel, 2009
  • Cherry Hill Volvo Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Big Sky int'l Film Festival, Montana, USA, 2009
  • NJ Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Maine Jewish Film Festival, USA 2009
  • Edinburgh Filmhouse, UK, 2008
  • San Diego Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Miami Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • San Antonio Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Doc New Zealand Int'l Film Festival, 2009
  • Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2009
  • Brooklyn Israeli Film Festival, USA, 2008
  • Barcelona Int'l Human Rights Film Festival, Spain, 2008
  • Opening Film – Boston Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2008
  • Opening Film, Calgary Jewish Film Festival, Canada, 2008
  • Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival, 2008
  • Hamptons International Film Festival, USA, 2008
  • HotDocs Int'l Film Festival, Canada, 2008
  • EBS International Documentary Film Festival, Korea, 2008
  • Washington Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2008
  • Israeli Film Festival in Melbourne & Sydney, Australia, 2008
  • Calgary International Film Festival, Canada, 2008
  • UK Jewish Film Festival, 2008
  • Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival, USA, 2008
  • Opening Film of the DocAviv Int'l Film Festival, Israel, 2008


  • UCLA
  • Temple Beth Am Library, USA
  • Stanford University
  • Milwaukee Coalition for Jewish Learning
  • American Jewish University
  • Ohio State University
  • UCLA
  • Library of Congress
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Arizona State University
  • Harvard University
  • Duke University
  • Yale University
  • Maryland University

Press and Links


This first-person documentary begins on the eve of Jerusalem filmmaker Yishai Orian’s wedding to Eliraz—the same week during which he buys a used yellow Volkswagen with a red hood. The Beetle picks up the story six years later with a pregnant wife and a worn-out car. While Yishai is a likable slob, Eliraz is a somewhat unsympathetic scold, who’s tired of the 40-year-old Beetle. “This car,” she complains, “is a piece of junk.” But to Yishai the car is more than just a broken-down hunk of metal, and he tracks down the vehicle’s original owners, along the way tracing the history of the “bug” back to Nazi Germany, where it gained popularity as “the people’s car” (eventually the model found its way around the world, including Israel, where prime minister Menachem Begin protested its arrival before relenting). Yishai’s quest to learn his own Beetle’s story leads him to Lionel, whose father had a love/hate relationship with the car; Yoram, who remembers it fondly; Eva, who gave birth in it; and Mara and Karol, who held on to it for the sake of a sick child. Yishai enjoys their stories but worries about safety, the price of baby supplies, and mounting repair costs, wondering whether to sell it or have it overhauled before ultimately making a decision that feels right. Recommended.

C, P. (K. Fennessy) / Video Librarian, September, 2010 


"The Beetle" in the International Documentary Series Global Voices Returns to PBS WORLD

Series Provides a Global Perspective into the Lives of People Around the World Season premieres Sunday, May 9 at 10 PM on the PBS WORLD channel. For the entire review, check:


"It is one of the best movies I ever saw; such an interesting weaving of the personal and national coming of age.  We are a group of Israelis who are very committed to watch any Israeli film that comes out. The Beetle definitely got very high scores."

Raya Mandler, USA

(***** of five stars), Droll and hapless Israeli documentary filmmaker Yishai Orian captures his efforts to convince his very pregnant wife that he should be allowed to keep his battered VW Beetle after she gives birth. The film captures Israeli and VW history (Hitler designed the Beetle) and the easy relations between Israelis and Jordanians when it comes to car repair.

For the entire review:,0,968223.story

An article about "The Beetle" in German, published in Nurnberg Nachrichter,
in preparation for the Screening of the Film on July 5th in an Art Cinema in

Regina Urban/Nurnberger Nachrichten, July 4, 2009

The Beetle is a documentary comedy about an old VW Beetle that needs repairing. His owner, the Israeli flimmaker Yishai Orian, decides to go to Jordan to repair, despite the protests of his pregnant wife to sell it.The rest is a road trip.

Cineman: Hi, Yishai, and thanks for answering those questions at Apart from being a Beetlemaniac, how long have you been working on the cinema/documentary business? Is this your first film, and how were you inspired?

Yishai Orian (Y.O.): "The Beetle" is the first film I have made after graduating "The Sam Spiegel Film School" in Jerusalem in 2005.

When I was a film student in Jerusalem I needed a car to get around so I bought the cheapest one I could find. I did not know then that the VW Beetle I had just purchased with all my savings would become the center of disagreements between my wife and myself – and the subject of my first feature film.

It did not take long for me to discover that the car I had bought for practical reasons alone was not just any old car. People do not remain indifferent when they see you drive by in a Beetle. This got me thinking about what might have happened to my car before it was mine. Who drove it? Who sat in the back seat? And do they remember the car?

As I became more attached to my Beetle, and more curious about its past, I started thinking about making a film about my Beetle.

For the entire review with Filmmaker Yishai Orian,

please check:,el/


"About A Beetle and Kids"

Director Yishai Orian presents not only a car in "The Beetle" - but its function and meaning. The meaning of a German car in Israel is well explored in his amusing documentary.  A car which was thought up by Hitler, and which was for more than 40 years an excessive symbol of the problems of Israel with itself and its neighbors- and which regards the relationship between human beings as the bond between both peoples.

Among the movies which deal with religion, politics, immigration and Holocaust issues there are also movies which simply tell the story of people who want to follow their dreams or must find their way, like the Israeli movie "The Beetle".

Der Tagesspiegel, May, 2009

"An expectant father's agony over giving up his pathetic old car — and his pre-fatherhood life — forms a surprisingly touching story of life and change in "The Beetle."

For the entire review by Joshua Tanzer/,


Director Yishai Orian has loaded up the film's star, a classic Volkswagen Beetle, with enough metaphorical luggage to bring a less robust and spirited vehicle to grinding halt. His beloved yellow car with the red hood may run a little slow at times, but it goes the distance and the ride is a delight.

Already anxious about becoming a father, Yishai's inner Peter Pan kicks into overdrive when his pregnant wife puts pressure on him to sell the Beetle and replace it with a safe, reliable family car. Their conflict over the Beetle becomes representative of their differing values. In the passenger seat sits Eliraz who embraces responsible adulthood. Sitting next to her in the driver's sear is Yishai who doesn't want to leave the freedom of his youth on the side of the road.



To bolster his case, he tracks down and interviews his Beetle's previous owners. Yoram Teharlev, a famous Israeli songwriter and poet, owned the car for twenty years. His children grew up riding in the back of the Beetle, and he uses the Beetle to illustrate the letter B in the children's book. The third owners share with Yishai how happy the Beetle made their desperately sick child.


Inspired by these stories, Yishai takes to the open road, to the south of Israel, then on to Jordan to have the car overhauled cheaply and quickly, before his wife gives birth. In this segment of the film, the Beetle offers Yishai the freedom of the open road and open spaces, and acts as a bridge between Arabs and Jews.


No car has inspired more lasting affection than the Beetle. Inextricably tied up with growing up in the 60s and 70s in Germany, the US and Israel, the Beetle became a symbol of youth and its values. The Beetle's appeal goes beyond more nostalgia. The car is a vault where precious stories of people's lives are stored, stores that intersect with the history of the times and the place.




Kaj Wilson/ Berlin Jewish Film Festival Catalogue, May 2009

"There aren’t many cars about which you could make a documentary like The Beetle. There’s the Mini. The Morris Minor. The MG. And maybe a few others (even
ones that don’t begin with M): cars that excite a loyalty and sense of identification beyond their mere functionality; a passion that strays into fanaticism.
Let’s put it this way: you’re unlikely to see anyone making The Corolla any time soon."

For the entire review by Guy Somerset/The Listener, NZ, March 2009,

"The Beetle" is one of those endearing films that presents itself as a comedy but turns out to have more on its mind than easy laughs. There are times when Orian pushes his conceit a tad too far and comes dangerously close to precociousness, but it will be the hard-hearted moviegoer who isn't seduced by his camaraderie and heart.

For the entire review check: Michael Fox/San Diego Journal, February, 2009

Thank heaven then for The Beetle, a movie we hope someone will pass across Allen's desk, because its star/director, Yishai Orian, functions a lot like a young Israeli version of Woody. Like Allen, Orian has an undeniable charm that makes even the way he eats cereal funny, besides the fact that he's an enormously clever filmmaker. The plot will seem too thin for most: Orian's wife is expecting their first child and is requesting, in that peculiarly forceful way of all good Jewish mothers, that Orian scrap his beloved VW Beetle in favor of a safer, family-oriented option. But great films have been made on much less a story line than this one (De Sica's Ladri di biciclette, for instance), and midway through, you will be rooting for the survival of this car as if it were Bambi herself. Part of the movie's success is owed to Orian's filmmaking — the editing and storytelling put 99 percent of fiction films to shame — but most of it has to do with Orian himself, a thoroughly likeable character torn between his responsibilities to himself (as an artist) and his wife and son-to-be (as a husband and, intriguingly, as a Jew). Is it too much to say this film is about the beauty of the human soul? That the Beetle, even as it remains a symbol of Nazi Germany, becomes a thoroughly convincing symbol for that soul? That it makes a quietly compelling cry for peace between Israelis and Arabs while simultaneously providing more laughs than the last three Will Ferrell movies combined?

American Jews, if you can persuade Yishai Orian to move here, Joseph Epstein can finally sleep soundly.

Scott Cunningham /Miami New Times, January 21, 2009

For the entire review check:

"The right proportions of humor and sentiment…brilliantly done"

TimeOut Tel Aviv


"A heartwarming experience that lifts the spirits and touches the gut"


"Just a wonderful film"


Boston Jewish Film Festival (Nov. 5-16)

Celebrating its 20th year, the BJFF's gala event will feature Yishai Orian's "The Beetle," about a man's love for his ancient VW Bug. "Strangers" features an Israeli-Palestinian romance and was shot on location with improvised dialogue. MFA and other venues.

For the entire review, check:

"Last night, the festival kicked off with a special screening of "The Beetle," an inventive film about a father-to-be who sets off on an improbable journey to prove to his irritated and very pregnant wife that his irrational attachment to his disintegrating VW Beetle is not irrational at all.

To prove his point, director Yishai Orian tracks down all the previous owners of his VW and then, with his wife due to give birth within days, sets out for Jordan in hopes of finding a mechanic who will be willing to give his VW a quick, complete -- and cheap -- overhaul."

For the entire review, check:

"Director Yishai Orian is one of the millions of proud Beetlemanics sprinkled throughout the world. Despite the vehicle's rough and noisy ride, underpowered motor and dubious distinction as Hitler's "car for the masses," the Volkswagen Beetle became the most produced car of a single design in history (Hitler himself is said to have sketched the prototype for what would become the Beetle). Sadly, Orian's beloved 40-year-old car is on its last legs and his beloved and very pregnant wife wants it scrapped. We join the filmmaker on his extremely funny and touching road trip as he introduces us to the people who owned, loved and even gave birth in his cherished car. As fatherhood looms, Orian is reluctant to let go of the past, and he debates his options to repair or sell the car. The Beetle was selected as the opening night film at this year's prestigious DocAviv Festival.

Chris McDonald – Executive Director, HotDocs Int'l Film Festival, April, 2008

"In a departure from politics and conflict, Doc Aviv selected the light-hearted "The Beetle" for its opening night. The film will make its North American debut later this month at Hot
Docs. Director Yishai Orian takes a first person approach. He has a cartoonish look, squinting through thick glasses, with his curly long hair pulled back in a pony tail (as many Israeli men groom their hair after military buzz cuts). In the film, Orian's pregnant wife wants him to get rid of his vintage Volkswagen beetle and its failing engine. He's desperate to save it and sets out to meet all his previous owners. Their stories are quite dramatic, with incidents ranging from birth to death. But the impact of their interviews is undermined by scenes that seem obviously set up by Orian for the sake of the film. In one instance, he visits a junkyard, allegedly intending to scrap the car, only to make a last minute change. The scene looks so scripted, it calls to mind the concoctions of Morgan Spurlock's misbegotten "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?" - though "The Beetle" has more charm and less grandiosity. The two films even share the plot device of a pregnancy deadline. Perhaps this new sub-genre should be called a "concoc-umentary."

Thom Powers/Indiwire, April 15, 2008

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