Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Protest that comes from an unusual place in Apkon/Young's doc, DISTURBING THE PEACE

Of all the many documentaries we've seen regarding the ongoing Israeli/ Palestinian conflict, DISTURBING THE PEACE, the new one from filmmakers Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young, is certainly among the most unusual and important. This is because the film details the coming together of a group of Israeli military and former Palestinian fighters who have joined forces to challenge the seats of power on both sides by insisting, Enough! Really now: Doesn't "Give peace a chance" resonate a lot more strongly when it comes from those who have served in the military and/or devoted so much of their former life to war?

Filmmakers Apkon (shown at left) and Young (below) certainly see it that way, and so, I think, will you, once you've witnessed their thoughtful and moving documentary with its rather ironic title: "Peace," after all, is what the folk we meet here are looking for. Yet the "peace" they are disturbing is actually the status quo found in both a majority of Palestinians and Israelis who would rather go on fighting forever than join forces to find some way out of the death
and destruction that keep raining down upon them. To counter this seemingly endless trend, Apkon and Young offer up first a history of the principals involved in this joint effort. They show us the background of these people, embedded of course, in the history of their cultures: How the Jews lost entire families to the Holocaust, and how the Palestinians lost their land, homes and sometimes family members, as Israel took over their former homeland. This is history, writ both large and small, and once we learn where these Israeli military and Palestinian fighters came from, we also begin to learn, understand and appreciate how and why their attitudes slowly evolved and changed.

Most of this history has been "re-created" for the documentary, but once we get into present-day affairs, the film relies on real footage. While TrustMovies is growing somewhat tired of these re-creations, he admits that they do make for a more engaging entry into the tale being told. Otherwise, this documentary might be little more than talking heads reminiscing for maybe half the running time of the film. Here, the re-creations are bolstered by historical footage (one shocking scene shows workers cleaning up literally buckets of blood in a disco after a bombing) that helps keep the movie on track.

One of the most surprising and deepest moments arrives when a Palestinian fighter sees his own mother crying for the dead children on a recently bombed bus. "But they weren't Palestinian, they were Israeli," he tells her. She sets him straight with an answer that resonates and burns into him. And then there is the case of the Palestinian mother (below), planning on becoming a suicide bomber, and how she handles the explanation of this to her young daughter. Because this movie first builds up a very good case for how angry the men and women on both sides really are, it can then build an even better case for peaceful resolution by showing how change did come. For them, at least.

Some of the Israelis shown screaming "Traitors!" at members of this coalition at various rallies show the state of that nation and may remind you of similar happenings when Rabin was still alive. These "traitors" are people who believe so strongly in working for peace that they have been put in prison for years for their beliefs. The world needs more of this kind of "traitor." In one surprising scene, we're made privy to a family in which the father wants his daughters to join in a protest march for peace. Notes his wife: "You've gone to the other side, and it makes me crazy."

The film provides some good history, too, taking us back to the letter signed by these Israeli military men refusing to fight any longer in the occupied territories. "We are not against serving in the army but we refuse to turn that army into a mechanism of repression." At the first meeting of the two sides, tensions are shown to be high ("I wanted to kill them. To eat them!" one person recalls). Over time this tension lessens and major progress is made.

The 2015 uprising proved a real setback to the cause, but by the finale of the film, we see both sides taking to the public platform and engaging their audience with the idea of peace. "Don't listen to your leaders!" they exhort the crowd. "Challenge them!" And that, of course, would be leaders on both sides of the equation. Disturbing the Peace left me in tears -- for all that could be done but has not been. Yet.

The documentary -- from Abramorama, in Hebrew, Arabic and often in English (with English subtitles used when needed) and running 87 minutes -- opens this Friday, November 11, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the Landmark Sunshine, and on November 18 in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Music Hall 3. Elsewhere? Yes, Click here to view all currently scheduled screenings, along with special screenings (with free admission, or for veterans) and to see the schedule for the many personal appearances by the directors.

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