Bearing the Unbearable: Israeli and Palestinian Films About the Conflict


“Try to make me look good,” grins one Israeli soldier midway through
. “Blame it on the higher ranks, not me.” Shot at various checkpoints from 2001 through 2003, Yoav Shamir’s documentary looks on in (mostly) silent witness as Palestinians wait in all types of weather to negotiate a Kafkaesque maze of permits, curfews, and roadblocks. The occasional outburst of lunkhead patriotism notwithstanding, the attitude of the Israeli soldiers here is not so much open hostility as cool institutional indifference. While alluding to the ineffectiveness of the checkpoints in preventing suicide bombings, the film is less a polemic than an accumulation of tiny outrages—a man prohibited from accompanying his wife and son to the hospital, a woman forced to send her three young children home alone, crowds required to stand in line for hours just to make the daily commute. Shamir’s great accomplishment is in transferring the Palestinians’ mounting frustration to the audience—watching Checkpoint might even prompt some Americans to rethink their enthusiasm for giving up their own rights.

Assuming they ever get to see it. Still undistributed, Checkpoint gets a rare showing as part of this Symphony Space series. The slate also includes a pair of seldom-screened documentaries: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s The Inner Tour, about a group of Palestinians on a sightseeing trip to Israel, shot just before the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, and Forbidden Marriages in the Holy Land from director Michel Khleifi (Wedding in Galilee, Route 181), a film on the trials of mixed marriage that goes beyond the Palestinian Muslim/Israeli Jew binary to encompass the region’s various races, religions, and nationalities.

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