Censored Voices starts off like many documentaries about Israeli military history: with recorded voiceovers, black-and-white photographs, and illustrated maps with moving shapes that represent forces advancing and receding across the Sinai desert, the Golan Heights, the West Bank.
But rarely is the first face onscreen that of Amos Oz, the celebrated Israeli novelist. A tape recorder clicks on, and Oz’s own voice begins asking questions — from fifty years in the past. Two weeks after the 1967 war, Oz and his friend, editor Avraham Shapira, began interviewing Israeli soldiers about the fighting, their experiences, their hopes and lives.
There’s glory, of course, and nostalgia for the kibbutzim and the early years of Israeli settlement. But as an older, present-day Shapira says, Israelis are living in a state of war “even if the war never breaks out.” He and Oz take the long view of trauma, the political and psychological toll it takes on a society ever shoring up its borders. In the second half of the film, the soldiers’ recollections turn toward the detention of Palestinian men and the forcible removal of Palestinians from villages where their families had lived for centuries, while we watch footage of the men scrunched against walls, sitting on the ground, their houses turned upside down in raids.
The soldiers love their country and hate what they did. Oz is the best-known novelist in Israel, notorious for supporting a two-state solution. If you don’t yet understand why he does, watch this film. If you’re already on Oz’s side, keeping the wound open might be worth it.
Directed by Mor Loushy
Music Box Films
Opens November 13, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas