I don’t blame Eran Kolirin for the controversies surrounding his films – opinion

I never met Eran Kolirin, the Israeli scriptwriter and director. But I like him. Your movie The band’s visit He tried to show that Israelis and Arabs do not need to be enemies and, in fact, can learn from each other. Of course, it ended up being a bit condescending towards the Arabs, in terms of the depth of the lessons learned. But his heart was in the right place, and the movie, of course, was a huge success, even spawning a Broadway musical.

I admire Kolirin for not following that movie with The Band’s Return Visit or something similar at all. His next movie, The exchangeIt was a guaranteed no crowd pleaser. Its protagonist tries to take an enriching vacation from mundane interactions by becoming a kind of phantom presence in his everyday surroundings. Or something like that. It was a fun movie, but more of a philosophy lesson in the absurdity of personal existence than a match to audience expectations.

Kolirin then made Beyond the mountains and hills, about a family that suffers all kinds of tensions. The father is a recently retired army officer, the daughter is a pacifist with an Arab boyfriend, and there is reason to suspect that she has become a clueless pawn in a terrorist plot.

With that track record, Kolirin does not strike me as an ally of anti-Zionism, but the actors of Let it be tomorrow – his latest film – caused a stir at the Ophir awards ceremony, where the film won ten awards and became Israel’s nominee for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. And the content of the film itself, which was screened recently on Israeli Film Day, shows Israel in a false and unflattering light.

Let it be tomorrow It comes from a couple of production companies with offices in Israel, and the shoot was supported by several Israeli foundations. But the action takes place in an Arab village, the dialogue is almost entirely in Arabic, and even before the Ophir Awards, the actors boycotted the Cannes Film Festival in protest at the film’s designation as Israeli rather than Palestine.

Photo of Let It Be Morning (credit: SHAI GOLDMAN)

Then, for the Ophir awards ceremony, the film’s award-winning supporting actor Ehab Elias Salami said he had a harmless two-act dream: first, a just peace for the Palestinian people, and then a life of tranquility and creativity for the citizens of the state. .

Alex Bakri, best actor, sent a message saying that the story, about an imaginary blockade of the village by Israel, points to “the absurdity and cruelty of not being able to control the smallest details of our lives here”, that the blockade continues Door to Israel is “much more cruel, depriving people of a vision of their future and of all hope”, and that although some may object to its political statement, artists must protest injustice at every opportunity. He hoped the film would help convince audiences that “our national loyalty and the Palestinian right to self-definition” are not a threat, but an opportunity to open up to a different but egalitarian culture that is part of the local mosaic, and that they would. cry out for the end of what is done in your name.

A message from best actress Juna Suleiman read: “Normally I should be happy and grateful for the award, but sadly that is impossible as long as there are efforts to erase the Palestinian identity and my collective pain, which are present in every role I play. Making a distinction between my role and my identity is a cynical and violent act based on the ongoing colonial traditions of erasing historical identity and ethnic cleansing, leaving room for joy, only anger and frustration. “

Of course, everyone has a say and thanked the great team of filmmakers. Softening the waters while accepting his own awards, best script and best director, Kolirin commented that after the very important things that had been expressed, he wanted to add that a movie is a meeting between people. He thanked everyone who contributed; and highlighted their good mutual relations with them. He stated that he shares the award with the other nominated directors and with Sayed Kashua, who wrote the book on which the film is based.

In accepting the Best Picture award, producer Keren Michael said the film was made with love and human interconnection, and that “the strength of a country is measured by its ability to allow the voices of a variety of people to be heard. society”.

But when the Oscar judges and other foreign audiences and opinion formers see the film, they will not experience a variety of voices from society. You will see an Israeli Arab village where the residents meet, without explanation, but apparently because unauthorized workers from the West Bank are present, that suddenly Israel does not allow anyone to enter or leave, cuts the electricity and leaves them without food and water.

Such a thing has never happened in reality. Of course, we don’t go to the movies to see literal reality. The Band’s Visit also revolved around an unrealistic premise. This is an Egyptian police gang paying a goodwill visit to Israel, but Egypt’s cultural relations with Israel are actually nil. Let It Be Morning is a fable, a satire, a warning. And a magnificent gift for the slanderers of Israel.

Audiences around the world will assume that Israel routinely and arbitrarily besieges its own Arab villages for days on end. Instead of advancing the understanding of Israel, Let it be tomorrow Misunderstanding and hostility will advance. Few viewers will say “How wonderful Israel is, to praise a film that belittles itself.” More will assume that Israel would never promote such a story, or even allow it, unless it reflected reality. And it’s not like the world is blessed with a lot of pro-Israeli movies, on the other hand. Or with many enthusiastic pro-Israel interviewees among the red carpet actors.

I don’t blame Eran Kolirin. Maybe like the man in your movie The exchange he wanted to be a ghost, he doesn’t have both feet on the ground. Maybe like the girl in his movie Beyond the mountains and hills, you don’t think much about what you’re getting into.

But when Israeli government foundations support films in the making, someone should think ahead. Someone should keep in mind that while internal self-criticism is vital to a democracy, deceptive self-deprecation on the international stage is of no use.

The writer is a fan of Israeli cinema.


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