Wounded Land by Erez Tadmor (previous films: A Matter of Size, Strangers) is a new feature film that premiered at the 32nd International Jerusalem Film Festival last night. It is a hard-hitting, gritty film which casts a critical eye on so much within Israeli society -- about corruption in the police force, anti-Arab racism, and how people behave with great hatred and fear in the wake of a suicide bombing.
The entire story of the film, which takes place in one day and night, is about two Israeli policemen in Haifa, one is senior to the other, one is corrupt, both are family men and longtime friends, one is being pressured by his superiors on the police force to tape the other and to bring him down. But he doesn't want to ruin his friend's life. This is about how both policemen are personally and professionally affected by a tragic suicide bombing.
Erez Tadmor, following the screening last night, said he built the script around a story that he heard in which a suicide bomber survived his bombing and was hospitalized in an Israeli hospital. In the film, this part of the story requires a police presence to defend him against revenge by enraged Israelis. In fact, one of the main moral dilemmas in the film revolves around whether or not we should preserve the life of this terrorist, especially as victims of the bombing await their turn impatiently in the emergency room.
Wounded Land casts a lens on Israeli society, focusing on both its positive and negative elements. It is an effective portrayal, filled with much tension and a wide array of diverse characters, all of whom are struggling to deal with intense personal dilemmas in the light of a suicide bomb attack.
There is one rogue policeman who is uncontrollable and often violent. Following the bomb explosion, the assistant director of the local hospital, an Israeli Arab doctor, is beaten up in the parking lot by an angry Jew looking for revenge. The suicide bomber himself is portrayed as a young man, disappointed in love. Speaking of love, one of the policemen is wooing a nurse at the hospital while they are both working under so much pressure. There are three fathers of boys in a judo club, all of whom were present at the time and place of the bombing. One boy is killed, one is hurt badly, and one is traumatized and runs away. The fathers all behave differently – they each have different values, different morals.
The film has a poignant ending, which I leave it to you to decide if it is a suitable conclusion of this complex story, about a subject which most of us in Israel would prefer to forget or deny. In any event, this film leaves you thinking and wondering about how we would all cope if faced with the same dilemmas that the heroes of this film had to face.