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Bickels [Socialism]

GER/ISR 2017, 92 min

22 buildings by the Kibbutz architect Samuel Bickels, filmed in Israel in 2015. As prologue, the Casa do Povo in São Paulo, as appendix, The Story of Vio Nova – accompanied by paintings by Meir Axelrod.


Showing 22 buildings by the Kibbutz architect Samuel Bickels, filmed in Israel in 2015, BICKELS [Socialism] deals with the sediments of the 20th century. Bickels’ buildings are the heart of an idea, an interaction, social and cultural. His architecture reflects a will to create a civilization.

BICKELS [Socialism] is the second part of Heinz Emigholz’ STREETSCAPES-series, which also includes 2+2=22 [The Alphabet], STREETSCAPES [Dialogue] and DIESTE [Uruguay].


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Language: English, Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish

Awards and Festivals

- Berlinale Forum, 2017  
- BAFICI Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, 2017
- IndieLisboa International Film Festival, 2017
- Tag der Architektur – Wiesbadener Festtage, 2017
- Jerusalem International Film Festival, 2017
- Milano Design Film Festival, 2017
- Viennale – Vienna International Film Festival, 2017
- Duisburger Filmwoche, 2017
- Heinz Emigholz Retrospektive im Stadtkino Basel, 2017
- BOZAR Cinema Brussels, 2018
- Metakino Festival Helsinki, 2019
- Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, 2019

Additional Texts

Samuel Bickels
by Galia Bar Or

Samuel Bickels was born in Lwów (Lemberg) in Galicia in 1909, in a home that fostered education and high culture. He completed his studies in architecture and engineering at the Polytechnic in Lwów (1928–1931), and then set out for Paris for six months of courses that did not include formal studies. In 1933 he married Clara Project, who was studying for a Physics master’s degree, and migrated with her to Eretz-Israel. His parents, his brothers and most of his family perished in the Holocaust. He was a member of Kibbutz Tel Yosef from the late ’30s, and from 1951 until his death in 1975 he was a member of Kibbutz Beit Hashita. From the ’50s on he worked in a team with his wife Clara, who assisted him in planning and engaged in drawing plans until her death in 1969. Bickels devoted his energies to planning, and expressed his artistic sensitivity in the emphases of the planning: in the acoustic quality in the concert halls and in the appropriate display space (proportions and lighting) in the museum building. It is only in recent years that Bickels’ extensive and distinctive architectural work has gained recognition among the professional architectural circles in Israel. Bickels was systematically absent from the Technion’s discussions on kibbutz architecture. He did not participate, for example, in the symposium on “The Planning of a Kibbutz Point” conducted by the Technion’s department of training and further studies in 1958. The architect Abba Elhanani, who was a lecturer at the Technion and the editor of the periodical Tvai, does not mention Bickels in his book “Israel Architecture’s Struggle for Independence in the 20th Century” (1998). Bickels’ name is also absent from the index of this comprehensive book, which includes scores of Israeli architects. It would seem that this ignoring of Samuel Bickels in the Israeli architectural discourse attests more than anything to an ignoring of the connection between architecture and a cultural-social agenda. Throughout his life Bickels engaged in this connection and toiled to materialize his conception of it in his master plans, his planning of social, cultural and farming institutions.

Social Architecture
Galia Bar Or on BICKELS [Socialism], Casa do Povo and the Story of Vio Nova

Heinz Emigholz’ Film deals with sediments of the 20th century – Samuel Bickels buildings of culture, education, communal dining-halls are the heart of an idea, the heart of an interaction, social and cultural.  It seems that this architecture reflects a will to create a civilization. These buildings are embedded in a physical-geographical and human environment, each one is a variation, each one is particular, not a prototype, some are still functioning and some are ruins but one feels the involvement with the community, the same as Casa do Povo. This is not an architecture of the “big vision”, utopic or dystopic, even-though it has its pathos, but that is not from a standpoint of the hegemonic but of the peripheral culture, minor culture, the periphery of the movement of modernism – displacement and immigration brought these seeds of social architecture – to Israel, to Brazil. The film deals with architecture that engages with the texture of life, it is organic in its process of duration and adaptation, it gets old in a particular way. So the film follows the traces of time, it traces the buildings in present time, their story – for this is their story. The film does not attempt to reconstruct what may have been there in the past. It is the accumulation of time that these buildings are carrying, the dust, the violence, things that happened and left their traces, this is what we experience as viewers during the film screening. What is our respond to the cultural and social forms that these buildings represent? We inherited, these buildings, these stories, this past, these are the sediments of the 20th century, dreams horrors, achievements, failures. The film takes us to a tour and via its time and sounds of the present it enables to contemplates time of the past which is always also a way of thinking the future.

Casa do Povo

Casa do Povo, in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, was conceived by Holocaust survivors as a Jewish cultural centre, and built by Ernst Mange in 1953. The theatre was designed by Jorge Wilhelm. A product of socialist ideals, Casa do Povo became a centre for resistance to the dictatorial Brazilian regime. The building is currently being renovated by a group of young creative artists, who intend to turn it into a cultural centre once again. By doing so, they hope to make Casa do Povo a place to keep alive the memory of the country’s political history, and for innovative cultural activities.

The Story of Vio Nova

Kibbutz Tel Yoseph was the leading centre of the Labour Battalion organisation, a widespread commune of Jewish workers in Palestine based on cooperation and equality. In the late 1920s, about one hundred members left the Labour Battalion and returned to Russia. The first group left secretly in 1927, with a truck and a tractor, and the last group left in 1929. Palestine was under the ‘capitalist’ British mandate; the economic situation was harsh and they felt that their comrades were not communist enough. Stalin, who oppressed Zionism, promised them a place in the Crimea, and they left in hopes of building a better world there. Since Hebrew was forbidden in Russia, the new kibbutz in the Crimea was named Vio Nova (‘a new way’ in Esperanto). They continued to speak Hebrew and conducted their life the same as they had in Palestine with a communal dining hall, children’s houses, etc. For a few years the kibbutz was successful. Stalin sent journalists and painters as part of a propaganda effort aimed mostly at Jews, proclaiming the failure of Zionism and the success of Soviet Russia. Four painters visited Vio Nova in 1930 and 1931. The paintings shown in the film that belong to the Ein Harod Museum were painted at that time by Meir Axelrod, and were donated to the museum by his grandson, who immigrated to Israel in the 1990s. Vio Nova was too independent and changes in Stalin’s policy marked its fate. In 1932 the members were forced to accept as members Stalin’s informers. In 1934 the kibbutz was forced to turn into a kolkhoz – not a commune anymore, but a place where every family was on its own. The kolkhoz was named Drojba Nádorov, or ‘The Nation’s Fraternity’. In the second half of the 1930s, many of the former Labour Battalion members left for Moscow and other places in Russia, and according to estimates, thirty to forty of them were arrested, many never to be seen again. In 1944 when the Germans invaded, one of the ‘new’ inhabitants pointed out the last remaining members of Vio Nova, two women and five children. They were drowned in the old ‘Nation’s Fraternity’ well.


Director and Screenplay
Heinz Emigholz
Galia Bar Or
Director of Photography and Editor
Heinz Emigholz, Till Beckmann
Original Sound
Till Beckmann
Sound Design
Christian Obermaier
Sound Mixer
Jochen Jezussek
Till Beckmann
Production Management São Paulo
Mila Zacharias
Heinz Emigholz, Galia Bar Or
Produced by
Heinz Emigholz Filmproduktion
With the Help of
Ostrovsky Family Fund, Mishkan Museum of Art Ein Harod, Goethe Institut Tel Aviv, Ann und Ari Rosenblatt


3 film talks with Heinz Emigholz in Afula, Israel, Berlin and São Paulo, Brazil (190 min), Chapter Navigation, Presskit, Trailer
German, Hebrew
Country Code
PAL / Color
92 min + 190 min Extras
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
DD 5.1 + 2.0
Set Content
Softbox (Set Content: 2)
Release Date
Info-Programm gemäß §14 JuSchG

Distribution Details

Screening Format
DCP (2K & 4K, 25 fps, 5.1)
Blu-ray Disc
Aspect Ratio
Digital, 1.77 (1920 x 1080p)
Promotion Material
Trailer, A1-Poster
License Area
Info-Programm gemäß §14 JuSchG