Victory for Us Is to See You: Palestinians in Recent lsraeli Film
Midway through Avi Mograbi's Avenge But One of My Two Eyes (2006), a man describes the construction of "a separation wall, as we might call it, that says 'we are here to stay' [...] the whole thing forming a barrier that, together with the patrols of soldiers, enables an almost hermetic enclosure."
Programma, Issue 1, September 2009
Midway through Avi Mograbi's Avenge But One of My Two Eyes (2006), a man describes the construction of "a separation wall, as we might call it, that says 'we are here to stay' [...] the whole thing forming a barrier that, together with the patrols of soldiers, enables an almost hermetic enclosure." One would be forgiven for thinking that this is a description of the lsraeli "separation barrier" or "security fence" (the naming of the wall is as controversial and polemically loaded as its very existence) being constructed unilaterally around the Palestinian Territories with the ostensible purpose of keeping militants and suicide bombers from infiltrating lsrael. But the man telling the story is a tour guide standing on the famed mountaintop ruins of Masada as he describes in detail an extensive wall built by Roman soldiers to isolate the besieged Jewish rebels in 73 C.E. and keep anyone and anything from getting in or out. With a tour guide's emotive flourishes, he entreats his audience to imagine the zealots' feelings of desperation, collective entrapment and hardening resolve.
It is an irony that perhaps escapes the guide and his attentive visitors, but not one that eludes Mograbi, whose film is fulI of such unexpected and discomfiting moments in which the heavily freighted and mythologized past finds inverse resonance in the harsh realities of the present. Appropriate to a film - part documentary part personal essay - that is fundamentally about the stories we tell ourselves in order to explain who we are and who we are not, the voices of Avenge are tour guides and teachers, historical reenactors, docents and preachers, activists and parents tutoring their kids about the heroics of Masada and the story of Samson. It is about how narratives of place generate and sustain cohesive senses of identity - whether ethnic, religious or national. At its core, it is about the troubling slippages between experience, history facts, storytelling and belief that accrue around the dialectics of us and them, self and other.
In recent years, Israeli film has experienced a resurgence of creative growth and diversity of expression, not least in terms of how it deals with the tangled realities of the Israeli-Arab conflict; the unease, contradictions and internal fractiousness within Israeli society; and how the plight of Palestinians under occupation is perceived, interpreted and given voice by Israelis themselves.
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