The Austin Chronicle

Deadly Currents

Not rated, 115 min. Directed by Simcha Jacobovici.

REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., June 18, 1993

Presented for delegates attending recent Middle East peace negotiations, and awarded the Grand Prix at the 23rd International Documentary Festival of Nyon, Switzerland, this Canadian film by Israeli-born director Jacobovici is an unflinching, and for the most part, a comprehensive study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By giving equal time to those on both sides to express their opposing viewpoints, Jacobovici takes the tragic, complicated reality of this ongoing situation (which often becomes diluted due to the compassion-fatigued perspective of Western mass media), puts human faces on it and, in the process, also manages to dispel stereotypes that the viewer may have convictions about. Granted unprecedented access by the Israelis and Palestinians during production, Jacobovici's film leads the viewer to the unfamiliar, various day-in-the-life events and individuals connected to this troubled region: an Israeli army unit patrols the West Bank conducting house searches, a fugitive leader of the Intifada is interviewed during a tranquil dinner with his family, and an Israeli performer protests Israeli strong-arm tactics against the Palestinians through a popular song. Parts of the film do become chilling: a secret Palestinian interrogation of a suspected traitor in a claustrophobic location, and a gang of hooded Palestinian enforcers armed with small axes rushes down a crowded street in broad daylight, pulling a doomed “collaborator” to his execution. Despite its intentions of presenting a balanced forum, there are some flaws in Jacobovici's film. One is the fact that a large percentage of Palestinians are Christian, not Muslim, and by not interviewing the Christian Palestinians, Jacobovici gives the impression that the locus of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Muslim versus Jewish ideology. Another problem is scant historical information about why there is a conflict in the first place. Aside from a few short sentences at the beginning of the film, there is no mention of how the League of Nations (controlled by Great Britain and France, the leading colonial powers of the time), after World War I, carved up the former Ottoman Empire (which is now Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Jordan) and placed it under semi-colonial control of the British. Nor does the film mention that Great Britain reneged on its promise to Arab leaders to create an independent state for the Palestinians, as well as the establishment of a Jewish national home (via the Balfour Declaration) for the Zionists. After years of conflict, an Arab-Jewish civil war broke out after World War II, and this led to the territory being carved up again (including the creation of Israel) -- with the displaced Palestinians ending up as the losers in the land game. No easy solutions to this sociopolitical quagmire are offered in the film. Just an underlying hope for reconciliation if both sides cast off their hardened ideologies.

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