Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tribeca IV: Docs about the middle east, part one

Dear Father, Quiet, We're Shooting... (Avi Hayakar, Sheket yorim...)
(Israel) - North American Premiere.

A documentery Written and Directed by
David Benchetrit and Senyora Bar David

The greatness of a country is how it treats dissent. Making a film about “conscientious objectors” in and actually showing it in that country is evidence that the filmmakers are living in a democracy.

David Benchetrit is a Moroccan refugee who never really fit into the country he fled to in order to escape the extreme bigotry of the Arab world. He was briefly in the Army in and refused to defend his adopted country in the 1973 war, that was the one where Syria and Egypt nearly won and then would have been able to attempt genocide.

This anti-Semitic hypocrite became a filmmaker in order to produce propaganda, and over the years became pretty good. The Israeli government hates is guts, as one might imagine, and he was beaten up by military police when caught trying to look through classified documents in the ministry of Defense's archives back in 2004. He was looking for evidence of “war crimes” of course. 99% of (including Denmark and Canada) countries wouldn't have even let him in the building.

Most of the film concentrates on the 1982-2000 Lebanese Civil war and the Israeli intervention thereof. There is no doubt that the whole thing was badly bungled, and the interviews of the with the people who spent time in jail for refusing to serve or deserting from their posts (again, would Canada or Denmark give these people medals for that kind of thing), give clear evidence of that, but there's no context. Benchetrit makes it seem that Lebanon was peacefully minding it's own business when the evil Prime Minister Begin decided to invade just for the fun of it.

True this film was meant for Israeli eyes and most of the population knows their own history rather well. While it's interesting, the film is worse than useless when trying to understand the situation in the Middle East.

The Play (Oyun) (Turkey) - North American Premiere.

Directed by
Pelin Esmer

In Arslankoy, a mountain village in southern Turkey. some women decided take their constant complaining up a notch and put on a play dramatizing the problems they have in order to do something about it. So Ummuye, Behiye, Ummu, Fatma K., Cennet, Saniye, Fatma F., Zeynep and Nesim go to the local high school and ask the principal, a certain Mr. Huseyin, to help them produce it.

He agrees, and obviously he contacted Pelin Esmer to film the whole thing, and for the most part the women in question have not only their conciesnesses raised, but have a real blast as well.

The film is nothing much, but everyone seems to have a good time, and it's an interesting glimpse into the lives of women in a very different culture than our own.

Encounter Point (U.S.A., Israel) - World Premiere.

a documentary written and directed
by Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha

Good intentions are sometimes just are not enough. The peace movement in Israel/Palestine is of course on the side of the angels, and the Bereaved Families Forum certainly is that. Robi Damelin's son was killed by a sniper and is now running what's basically a self help group.

Sami Al Jundi, a retired Palestinian terrorist (he was jailed when the bomb his pals and he were making exploded prematurely) and has founded an organization called Seeds of Peace

We follow them, Shlomo Zagman, Israeli (former settler and founder of the Movement for Realistic Religious Zionism), and Ali Aboawwad, a Palestinian and currently co-director of the Bereaved Families Forum) as they go about trying to promote reconcilliation.

The stories are heartbreaking but it's not anything we haven't heard before, and considering what has happened in the months since this film was completed, there's less cause for hope than ever.

After all, nobody in the film seems to get what's going on.

The Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (USA, Iraq) - North American Premiere. A LifeSize Entertainment Release.

Directed by
Andrew Berends

One of the problems with this film is that there's a bit of murkiness about exactly what happened during the inciting incident. Was Ra'ad actually killed in response to something or did the Americans just do it for fun as the director implies?

This is the real question that follows Andrew Berends' rather schizophrenic propaganda documentary. The film concentrates on Ra'ad's survivors, mostly young Ibrahim, who has to take over the family business. Ra'ad was a portrait photographer and had a shop, but Ibrahim isn't very good at it, and soon the shop is going under. And he can't provide for his mother and two sisters, who are constantly depressed and weeping. One can sympathize.

Berends pretends to be “even handed” interviewing some American soldiers, but for the most part, the Americans are portrayed as unhuman machines, unthinking and unknowing.

There is a lot of footage of political rallies, and we see Muqtada al-Sadr, a leader of the Shiites and a supporter of the elected interim goverment giving speeches and Ibrahim and his friends dancing in the streets and chanting “Allah akbar” and the like. We also see the Sunnis shooting at a Shiite procession, or at least that's what it appears to be. It's possible Berends wants us to think it's another gratuitous American attack on people who are denouncing Saddam.

Denouncing Saddam? It's strange because it's apparent that Barends is to some extent PRO Saddam in his leanings.

Doesn't matter, even at an hour and a half, the thing seems really long. While Ibrahim and his family are very sympathetic, they're not exactly interesting.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Huseyin did not contact to Pelin Esmer.( He did not know her at all) They took Pelin Esmer's attention in a newspapers article.

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