Before the West Bank Wall was erected on their land in the village of Masha, the Amer family refused an offer to relocate. Now they are compelled to cross a checkpoint before they can reach their small farm. The Color of Olives attempts to reach the political through the mundane, documenting blocks of lost time as the family lazes in front of wire fences, but director Carolina Rivas aestheticizes the Amers’ plight, using them as actors for her tone poem on displacement. The film is nearly silent, conveying the Amers’ thoughts through talking-point intertitles that highlight their bond to the land. The texture of human relations is missing, and so Rivas’s commentary (repeated close-ups of the mother imprisoned by a window frame) comes off as condescending. Instead of posing the children in bright fill lights looking sad, why not let them speak? Rivas’s compositions are undeniably sharp when she’s not grandstanding, however, from olive trees latticed with sunlight to monumental long takes of Hani, the father, waiting for the young Israeli guards to let him through for the day’s work.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 4, 2006