The security fence being built around the perimeter of Israel is many things to many people; a sense of comfort, a waste of time and money, a false hope, a land grab, perhaps even an impenetrable obstacle to those with intent to harm. Regardless of your background or political leanings one conclusion should be universally shared – the wall at the focus of this chintzy documentary by Simone Bitton, is a nauseatingly upsetting symbol of the state of things in the land we call the Jewish home. How devastating and miserable is it that we have come to this. That a country finds itself erecting a physical barrier on all fronts in order to maintain a semblance of peace.
We have witnessed many forms of defenses configured by governments to protect what is theirs and what is important – the moat surrounding the castle, the barricade at Helm’s Deep, but never has their been a walled in country, a topographical ghetto. The sentiment itself is pitiful representing so much that has gone irreparably wrong with the so-called peace process with our Arab neighbors. Good fences make good neighbors is the saying, however, in Israel’s case there is no longer the dream of good neighbors, or rather neighbors who recognize your right to exist. What we have unfortunately come to is good fences keep bad neighbors from killing you (hopefully).
Wall is simply a poorly crafted means to begin the discussion. Bitton, a Jew who also calls herself an Arab, does not take a stand, and does not give more time to any specific viewpoint. Of course, being a liberal filmmaker she manages to somehow convey the impression that the security fence is “wrong” without spelling it out. What she does is essentially what anyone with a camera could have done, and she does so with no more artistry than any film school graduate. She points her camera and talks to people. With the exception of an awkwardly framed interview with an I’d-rather-not-be here General Amos Yaron, director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, her interviews are aptly with ordinary folk. An Arab doing the building, a farmer, a Jewish settler – all articulating their uninformed layman’s opinion with uninformed layman’s insight. Some don’t seem to realize that we are at war. The rest of the film is unbearably long shots of the wall being built. Sometimes an image on screen can speak volumes, but a good director will know the difference between that and clumsily filming a series of trucks whistling and creaking their way to work as a fence is slowly, painfully and expensively constructed.
Despite my misgiving’s about Bitton’s future as a documentary filmmaker, Wall does teach a few useful lessons, however they are few and far between and do not justify the inelegant treatment the subject earns here. For example, it was interesting to hear a precise description of how the fence works and to see the artwork on the Israeli side of the fence, a melancholy mural distracting its viewer from what is really going on.
What the average audience member with a vested interest in Israel will be left with is uneasiness, the same feeling we have lived with for decades. Will this be it? Can this be the difference maker? All signs point to...With G-d’s help there is a future where Jew and Arab can coexist side by side, respecting one another. That time has not yet come. We have entered the era of walls and like all other reconfigurations and reformulations for peace, we will, with a prayer in our hearts, wait and see.
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