Written by James Rawson, New Media, DFI
Film: Israel vs Israel
Director: Terje Carlsson
Cast: Yehuda Shaul, Ronny Perlman, Arik Ascherman, Jonathan Pollack
In 2007 Swedish director Terje Carlsson directed the acclaimed ‘Welcome to Hebron’, a documentary following Leila, a young Palestinian girl living under the Israeli occupation in Hebron, which watched her grow into a determined, opinionated young woman.
Carlsson revisits the Israel-Palestine conflict with his latest film ‘Israel vs Israel’, which will be the first feature shown at this year’s Aljazeera International Documentary Film Festival. However, he has now placed his camera on the other side of the security barrier, and is following four Israeli peace activists, all of whom are campaigning against the Israeli presence in Palestine in their own way. Yehuda Shaul is a leader in Breaking The Silence, a group that collects testimonies of human rights violations from Israeli military personnel; Ronny Perlman is a concerned grandmother who visits Palestinian checkpoints to try and assist ordinary Palestinians in their daily travels; Rabbi Arik Ascherman works with Palestinian farmers to defend their lands against encroaching settlements; and Jonathan Pollack is a member of Anarchists Against the Wall, engaging in direct action and trying to halt the expansion of the Israeli security barrier by any means necessary.
‘Israel vs Israel’ is at its best when exploring the differing motivations and actions of the four activists. Israelis fighting for Palestinian rights is a well-documented phenomenon, but all of the previous films I have seen on the subject have clumped all factions of the movement into one whole, when they are in fact enormously different.
Rabbi is forcing Israelis to reconsider their interpretation of The Old Testament, and defending the sanctity of all human life above the right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. Ronny is trying desperately to help forge peace, as she is horrified by the thought that her three year old grandson may one day have a gun put in his hand and be forced to use it against civilians. Yehuda simply wants to break open the taboo of what goes on in the Israeli military – an experience shared by all of his countrymen, but never spoken about in polite society; while Jonathan, the self-styled anarchist, seems to have fighting governments in his blood and is determined to provoke a response from Israeli officials, even if he ends up in jail.
The flipside of covering four stories in parallel over only an hour is that you can’t become quite as engrossed in the narrative as you can with ‘Welcome to Hebron’, Julia Bacha’s ‘Budrus’ or Nida Sinnokrot’s ‘Palestine Blues’. And with a subject matter as saturated with documentaries as this, an incredibly strong story is the best way to get your film remembered after audiences leave the theatre. ‘Israel vs Israel’, however, is certainly never boring, and will definitely be a talking point throughout the festival.