JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Palestine Blues (Director: Nida Sinnokrot) - March 19, 2009
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Palestine Blues

4 4
72 min.

CLS1055
Whose side are you on?

Perhaps the most illuminating episodes in filmmaker Nida Sinnokrot’s thoughtful documentary about the wanted/unwanted (see title, above) construction by Israel of its massive “security wall” across the West Bank is his interview with one of the architects in Tel Aviv. With maps stretched out before them, the “civil” servant’s geological (1948) and political (present day) rationalization explained nothing. No follow-up questions were offered or required to make the point.

As the tanks-without-mortar steam shovels and massive bulldozers prepared the way in Jayyous (giving a day’s notice to pack up for a project rooted in “military security”) the angry residents demanded a “piece of paper,” showing the legality of this life-altering forced divide.

When pressed, Israeli Captain Guylander admitted “a difference of opinion” (re: who owns what) but because the issue was political (the military being separate …) he would only—to the surprise of no one—be willing “… to do what I have to do.”

The Palestinians’ sling-launched rocks were David-and-Goliath brave and benefitted from an equally homemade aerial reconnaissance (the eager rooftop kids bellowing directional refinements to their brothers, fathers and uncles below) were no match for teargas and bullets. Progress could not be stopped with mere stones.

Much of the disruption of farms, water supply and freedom to travel was seen through the eyes and actions of Abu Azzum. The town’s patriarch had an affable demeanour and remarkable sense of humour (“Hop onto my F-16,” he said as Sinnokrot caught a ride on Azzum’s aging tractor for a guided tour of the citrus-laden fields and greenhouses).

But once the resistance proved hopeless—again: even his return-to-the-farm-and-live-there-in-camp plan failed—the beaten man could no longer find solace much less a moment of joy in the poetry of his beloved countrymen.

“They are getting rid of us without expelling us,” bemoaned a grizzled grandmother whose life has been a series of “relocations.”

Famously, just as the 2003 U.S.-led war with Iraq was about to begin, American Rachel Corrie stood up to a demolition-minded bulldozer in a Gaza Strip refugee camp and was crushed to death for her bold defiance. This deadly echo of what one person can do (1989 Tiananmen Square and “Tank Man”) reinforced the notion that when pushed far enough, the human spirit is capable of incredible acts of courage.

For his part, Sinnokrot largely lets his often semi-hidden camera and the gritty participants speak for themselves, keeping his personal comments to a minimum. Employing the blues artistry of Blind Willie Johnson and Muddy Waters (notably the latter’s “I Feel Like Going Home”) to underscore the title works on a simple, if somewhat superficial level. The more powerful musical offering comes from the Palestinian farmers’ a cappella ode to their livelihoods: “Oh Olive Tree, Oh Lemon Tree” whose final statement will require much more than a “smart wall” (just two metres tall but topped with especially electrified barbed wire) to cordon off then eliminate: “We will never surrender to the rule of Zionism.”

By the excited looks from their young sons (momentarily soured when an Israeli bullet found its target), the prospects for any kind of a fair, permanent solution are as remote as these West Bank settlements are to the consciousness of the leaders from both sides. JWR

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