Tuesday, January 28, 2020

AFTERWARD: Ofra Bloch's doc views the Israeli/Palestine conflict from an unusual, specific and highly engaging viewpoint

Opening in limited theatrical release earlier this month and already hitting home video, AFTERWARD, another in the very necessary and always problematic documentaries -- this one by first-time/full-length filmmaker Ofra Bloch -- addressing the ongoing conflict between Israel and the still-non-existent state of Palestine, proves to be one of the better examples in a seemingly never-ending parade.

And why should the parade end? Not, at least, until some kind of solution can be reached that provides justice to both sides.

Ms Bloch, shown at left and born in Israel to parents who escaped the Holocaust, tells us early on that she originally wanted to be a filmmaker but instead became a psychologist living and working in New York City. With Afterward, she uses -- and very well, too -- both skill sets to create a documentary that is smartly filmed and filled with intelligent people wrestling with seemingly insoluble problems.

Bloch speaks with an ex-Neo-Nazi German skinhead who calls the experience 'unreal' -- this conversation with an Israeli Jew. She asks the right questions and chooses choice moments to zero in and make the most of them, sometimes by exploring further, other times by simply leaving them alone.

As an Israeli Jew, she also understands that she must give more than equal time to the Palestinians to help balance out the wrongs Israel continues to heap upon them. "I grew up hating the Germans," she explains, "but we knew that when the next Holocaust came, it would be at the hands of the Arabs."  With this kind of history drummed into children, little wonder so many adult Israelis think, feel and behave the way they do.

Early in the doc and again toward the end, we hear this: Whenever Palestinians want to discuss the occupation, the history of the Holocaust is brought up to silence them. TrustMovies himself has heard this very "argument" raised where lives in South Florida in a predominantly Jewish community, and he has to admit it drives him a little crazy each time it is used as a kind of end-of-conversation excuse. But Bloch goes deeper into the question whenever possible in her interviews with both adult Germans (for instance, the woman, above, whose father was a young officer in the Nazi SS)

and the psychologist (above) and the photographer (below), two of the several Palestinians with whom the filmmaker has lengthy and insightful conversations. Among the surprising, provocative things we hear is that Palestinian freedom fighters/terrorists (pick your favored description) are choosing their current targets more humanely: soldiers rather than civilians. Yet soldiers, as Bloch points out along the way, are human beings, too.

Bloch's expertise is in the area of trauma, and she offers some interesting information in this arena, too. But for all the intelligence and humanity on display, the documentary may make you feel even more strongly that the situation is only growing worse and that no solution is possible. Jews born in Israel, notes Bloch, are the new Jews: those who would never submit to the enemy and would instead kill. Still, an one interviewee says late in the film, "Somehow, meaning must be gleaned from all this." Amen to that.

From 1091 and running 95 minutes, Afterward, in English, German, Arabic and Hebrew (with English subtitles as needed), hits Digital and On-Demand today, Tuesday, January 28 -- for purchase and/or rental. Note: The film is currently playing here in Boca Raton, Florida, at the Living Room Theaters for a week-long run.

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