The Art of War - "Lebanon" premiere at The Jerusalem Film Festival

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This year's Jerusalem film festival has wonderful Israeli films especially in the main feature film category. Everyone is saying that this year has one of the toughest competitions. One of my favorite films so far is the film "Lebanon." The film had its world premiere this past Sunday night. The title alone made me uncomfortable... I thought, "not another war film..." I mean, I am still not completely over the trauma of Yossi Cedar's Beaufort, let along Waltz with Bashir... I am a firm believer that Israeli films about war hurt its image... even anti war films like the two mentioned above, or other more classic war films that show Israel's patriotic power, make Israel seem to the western world like a backwards country. When people think of Israel, they often picture soldiers, camels or orthodox people -- and the soldiers are by far the worst. I like films that portray Israel beyond the cliche images shown in the news. I think Israel should be recognized by its beaches, night life, and culture. Only then will the world be able to see Israel as a normal place... Not a place just of war and religion, but a place with everyday life.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the film "Lebanon." Despite it depicting Israel as a war stricken country, and most of the time does not even make the IDF into the most ethical military in the world, the film still has artistic elements that are worthy of applause. The entire film takes place in a tank. 100%. Sounds horrible? It could be. The film does an amazing job keeping a claustrophobic feeling, however, it also keeps the tension and suspense throughout. With brilliant editing and camera work, there is not a moment of boredom in this tank. The story also develops in a masterful way finding gradually greater obstacles at every turning point. The film takes place over one day of the first Lebanon war, and follows the tank as it attempts to fulfill a seemingly simple mission. As the day progresses the tank gets deeper and deeper into the horrors of war and the tank commanders slowly start to lose their sanity. This film manages to take the closed quarter of a tank and create a top notch thriller. The horrors of war are never pretty. Throughout the entire film the soldiers are confronted with inhuman ethical dilemmas. One additional saving grace is the ending of the film. Without spoiling it, there is a lesson beyond the brotherhood, the self-criticism, and the guilt... and that is the ultimate humanity that is displayed. In all of the craziness of war, the lesson of this film is: "Bamakom sh'ain anashim hishtadel lihiyot ish – in a place absent of humanity (people), be a human (a mensch)."

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posted by Tony Shaw on February 18, 2011

Talking about war films, do readers remember Otto Preminger's Exodus, a Hollywood epic released in 1960? I'm researching the film for a book and would be interested to hear readers' views on it.

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