An Israeli film festival: Uncomfortable viewing


The great and the good of the Israeli establishment daringly traveled from Tel Aviv's well-heeled suburbia to the country's plentifully bombed front-line with Gaza for the Sderot film festival in early June. They came expecting an opening gala full of patriotism. For over a decade, the government publicized Sderot as the prime example of the victimization of Israelis by Palestinians firing rockets.

Instead, for over an hour, they had to endure "Testimonies", Palestinians' stories of the Israeli occupation. In a series of monologues drawn from Israeli human-rights reports housewives and farmers recounted abuses at Israeli checkpoints. A cleaner returns home with a Star of David etched on her army by a soldier wielding a broken bottle. A porter is required to copulate with his donkey to recover his identity card. To help the audience connect with the plight of those more usually seen as the enemy, the director, Shlomi Elkabetz, cast Jewish actors speaking Hebrew in the roles of the Palestinians and stripped the landscapes of any Palestinian symbols. The film ends with a woman weeping in Hebrew and Arabic, refusing to stop crying until the suffering ends.

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