"Israel continues to produce an impressive range of high-quality films and this years Sydney Film Festival (SFF) includes a fascinating selection among the 190 movies from more than 50 countries. Among the highlights is The Attack, where an Arab doctor living comfortably in Tel Aviv has his life turned upside down when his wife becomes a suicide bomber." (Focus on the Jewish-Arab divide, The Australian Jewish News, 31/5/13)
The first thing that struck me when I read this was the preposterous nature of the film's underlying premise. First that the main character is an 'Arab' "living comfortably in Tel Aviv." (OK, hands up out there all you Arabs who are living comfortably in Tel Aviv.) Then, as if that were not absurd enough, his missus turns suicide bomber!
Googling its title produced the following blurb by the film's distributor (Cohen Media), which annoyed me even more:
"Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman, Paradise Now) is an Israeli-Palestinian surgeon, fully assimilated into Tel Aviv society. He has a loving wife, an exemplary career, and many Jewish friends. But his picture perfect life is turned upside down after a suicide bombing in a restaurant leaves 19 dead, and the Israeli police inform him that his wife, Sihem (Reymonde Amsellem, Lebanon) who also died in the explosion, was responsible. Convinced of her innocence, Amin abandons the relative security of his adopted homeland and enters the Palestinian territories in pursuit of the truth. Once there, he finds himself in ever more dangerous places and situations. Determined, he presses on seeking answers to questions he never thought he would be asking."
Amin abandons the relative security of his adopted homeland? Hello?
So Amin's an Israeli-Palestinian, but Palestine's not his real homeland - as it is, say, for his Jewish friends, despite the fact that they or their parents could've originated anywhere on the planet.
And that bit about the Israeli police informing him that his wife's a suicide bomber. Seriously now, our fully assimilated but nonetheless 'Arab' doctor, would more likely have had his door smashed in at 2 in the morning by the Shin Bet, and been dragged off for interrogation or worse as a presumed accomplice. But no, not Amin, he gets to traipse off to the wild West Bank in search of answers.
Now as if all this nonsense were not vexing enough, I also learnt that the film's director was actually Lebanese - Ziad Doueiri - and not just any Lebanese either, but one who wasn't going to let any old Arab boycott get in the way making his film in Israel.
The following extracts from an interview Doueiri did with (Saudi-owned) Al-Arabiya TV last month were obviously music to Israeli ears and help explain both why he had no trouble whatever getting into Israel and filming there, and why Israeli propaganda shop, MEMRI, latched onto his words and made them available on its website:
Interviewer: Your movie was filmed in Israel, in Hebrew, with an Israeli actress. Doesn't this contravene Lebanese law?
Doueiri: Technically it's not against the law to make a film in Hebrew. What was against the law was my going to Israel... [so] I went [there] as a US citizen... The insane committee [for boycotting Israel] talks about 'normalization'. They commercialise the Palestinian cause. We accuse anybody who is against us of supporting normalization, and this is a mistake... the committee for boycotting Israel harms Lebanese artists, not Israel. It harms the spreading of our ideas, our narrative, abroad. They want to remain boxed in within the tiny Lebanese shack, which is managed by 4 or 5 people. They think they are punishing Israel, but they are punishing people like me.
Doueiri went on to explain that because Israel doesn't give a damn what the rest of the world thinks, least of all Lebanon's boycott committee, blokes like him, just itching to tell "our narrative," have got to go there and change it from within:
"In my opinion, when you work together with these outstanding people, who have [an] entirely proper attitude toward the Palestinians... They are constantly writing about the harm Israel inflicts upon the Palestinians. We need to lend them a hand [because] they can change the Israeli mindset much more than all those around them."
Moreover, he adds, because "half the pharmacists in Tel Aviv are Palestinian Arabs," and because he met an Israeli Palestinian doctor there, although "[t]o a certain extent [Palestinians] are second-class citizens and suffer from racism... their situation is not so bad."
Oh, and The Attack is based on a novel of the same name by an Algerian living in France who goes by the name of Yasmin Khadra, except that she, Yasmin, is actually a he... but really, I don't want to go there. How much more can a koala bear?