Friday, October 8, 2010

Simone Bitton's RACHEL (as in Corrie) explores her death and what this means

Might Rachel Corrie, the young peace-activist volunteer killed by an Israeli in a bulldozer back in 2003, have been the single biggest PR snafu experienced by the state of Israel over the past decade? She was, of course, much more than that, yet this judgment might certainly seem true to any disinterested viewer of the documentary by Simone Bitton that is receiving a theatrical debut this week at Manhattan's Anthology Film Archives. Anything to do with Ms Corrie creates a furor here. Remember that play by Alan Rickman that was to be presented -- and then no, and then yes -- that was finally staged here in New York City a few years ago? TrustMovies didn't see the play, but he is grateful to have been able to view this documentary, which is relatively even-handed in its investigation into events surrounding this young woman's untimely and unnecessary death.

Ms Bitton, pictured at left, certainly gives equal time to the Israeli side, though what we hear smacks of "official story" and is in any case often discredited by the eyewitness accounts we also hear. Ms Corrie was a member of the ISM (International Solidarity Movement), the group that positions its members into Palestinian homes, the better to stave off the attacks on and devastation of these homes by the Israeli military.  The devas-tation keeps happening, but the presence of the international community seems, if not a preventative, at least a "staving off" that works -- for a time.  (A good friend of mine spent much of the summer of 2009 doing this, and his emailed missives during and since have provided interesting food for thought.)

During the course of this hundred-minute movie, we hear many voices. (We see the speakers, too, but it's the voices -- and what they say -- that stays with us.) We hear from the father (above, left) of the family with whom Rachel (above, right) stayed, and we also see up-close the bulldozer (below) and the damage it can inflict. (Rachel in front of that bulldozer brings to mind the Chinese student in front of that tank in Tiananmen Square.) A solider who was stationed in the Termit outpost tells of shooting randomly into the occupied  territory, just as did the other soldiers stationed there. "I'm a gentle person," he explains -- and then says that, yes, he's killed women and children.

A combination of investigation, memories, accounts of the event, and letters written by Rachel, the movie is an unusually quiet documentary. But this does not mean that it is not an angry one. Its eyewitness accounts prove most immediate and startling, along with photos taken at the time. Yet, as the photographer himself tells us, the use of a video camera would have better proven the event from the eyes of the witnesses, and might even have prevented Rachel's death. Still photos can always be -- and have been in this case -- questioned as to their veracity.  It's much more difficult to question the truth found in a videotape. Remember Rodney King?

Perhaps the most moving and interesting portion of the film comes in the interview with the the young man, an Israeli peace activist, at whose home a meeting was held after Rachel's death. The product of Commu-nist grandparents, he attended his first rally at two months old. "Why do you keep doing this?' he is asked. "It is possible to resist without hope," he explains, "but also without despair." Rachel Corrie, I think, would have understood and appreciated this statement.

Rachel, distributed by Women Make Movies, opens today, Friday,October 8, for a one-week run at Anthology Film Archives. Click here for show times and ticket information.


Anonymous said...

where can i see or buy this film?

James van Maanen, said...

Hey, Anonymous:
Go to this link

for the Women Make Movies site, where you can get the telephone and fax numbers and/or the address of the organization that distributed the film. Someone there should be able to tell you how to rent or buy the film. Or you can just email and ask your questions that way.