Monday, September 05, 2011

We’d been invited to the Franco-German cultural center to see a film by a leftist Israeli filmmaker. The advance notice had said that “this was perhaps the most important film on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict ever made.” It was endorsed by a couple well-known intellectuals from abroad, and all its screenings at the Jerusalem Film Festival were sold out well in advance. I’d never seen his first film, which apparently was a autobiographical work that was “sort of interesting.”

...In short, the film was a total disaster. It was embarrassing. The plot made no sense, except as a primer of Freudian sentimentalism. Its use of symbol was both muddled and heavy-handed. The film’s most coherent and troubling gesture was that John needed Palestinians. He needed Palestinians to help him “work through” the psychological trauma of being a liberal guy who happened to have killed Palestinians. He needed Palestinians to sleep with. And then he needed them again to absolve him of his sins. We wondered why the director thought the film would make Palestinians “think.” When the lights went on, nervous laughter and hushed comments prevailed. There was a short cigarette break after which, the director announced that now the philosopher would speak.

...It was interesting to see this man gesticulate wildly, to see him sweat and speak through his accent. To see him go on about why critical thinking mattered so much in the circumstances here. He said that the more people claimed that it was time to simply “do something,” the more important critical thought became, because it was the only way we would get beyond reactive politics, towards something more strategic and creative. “And that’s the only way you, and I hesitate to say this because I have told you that I did not come here to patronize you by telling you what to do, will get out of your current crisis.”

He then told a story about how his young son had seen the wall and wondered why it had been built. While this was going on, however, we became conscious that something was going on in the room. Many people got up and left, those who stayed were becoming as fidgety as the speaker. The people behind were asking each other why he was insisting so much that he was not patronizing, “What did he mean by saying that, and saying it so often?”
The filmmaker was Udo Aloni.
From last year

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