"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Occupied Territories and the Rule of Law

The Law in These Parts, directed by Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, was screened this week to a full house at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. The award-winning documentary film (98 minutes) is about the legal system in the Occupied Territories -- an entire legal framework of military orders and legal opinions which were developed since 1967 by the military authorities to deal with the local population.  This is a superbly thoughtful film about order and justice, "which do not always go hand in hand".

Check out the website of the film which provides information on more than 30 upcoming screenings in Israel during the coming months.

The film touches on some of the following controversial issues of law:
  • it was decided that Palestinians who violently opposed the Occupation would be tried as terrorists and not as combatants – because they attacked civilian targets and therefore were not acting according to the international laws of warfare
  • land confiscations were justified under an old Ottoman law that stated that land which was not cultivated for three years reverts to the "empire"
  • remand without trial -- during the first intifada in the late 1980s, there was a change in the military orders in the territories and it was no longer a requirement that prisoners be given a hearing or trial in order to be remanded
and more --
  • housing demolitions
  • deportations
  • restrictions of movement.

Using a film set which sets the stage as a mini-courtroom, the filmmaker interviews some of the men who were the military judges during this period.  Yonatan Livni speaks frankly about what it was like to be a judge in a military court of law. When you put on the uniform, he says, your alliance immediately becomes subjugated to the needs and requirements of the Israel Defense Forces.

Justice Meir Shamgar was also a judge in the military system and later became chief justice of the Supreme Court of Israel (now retired).  Under his guidance, members of the local Palestinian population were permitted to petition the Supreme Court.  However, the role of the Supreme Court was not to critique the laws of the Occupation, rather to uphold them, thereby both supervising and confirming laws which deny basic democratic rights which should be available to the occupied population.  In one landmark case, however, the Supreme Court did differ with the laws of the Occupation – in its ruling that torture was not acceptable under any circumstances.

In the course of the film, the filmmaker shares with us his thoughts about documentary filmmaking - including his deliberations over who to interview - as well as his thoughts about occupation law.

In the discussion following the screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the director talked about the two different tensions that are highlighted in the film.  On the one hand, living in a democratic society, under the rule of law.  On the other, the inequalities and injustices of occupation. He asks: how can one expect people to abide by a law when they do not have the basic right to vote and to be involved in the making of the law.

The film was awarded a prize for best documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival (July 2011). These are the comments of the Jury: This is an important achievement in documentary filmmaking. In an even handed way, this film reveals the process through which both the law and documentary are constructed. In doing so it invites audiences to question what we typically take for granted. It is a film for the big screen as well as small.

This is not an easy film.  It is both complex and highly critical of the bottom line -- human rights and freedoms are taken away from the Palestinians as a group and as individuals supposedly to provide Israeli citizens with security. 

Ra'anan Alexandrowicz is known for his previous ground-breaking, critical and insightful films -- James' Journey to Jerusalem, Martin and The Inner Tour.  The Law in These Parts is available from the producer liranatzmor@hotmail.com

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