San Francisco International Film Festival 2012: Israel’s “Policeman”, “The Exchange”, and “The Law In These Parts” Reviews and Trailers

I have a habit of seeking out films from specific cultures. Poland’s films are always instantly snatched up, as well as Russia, Iran, and South Korea. This year I decided to take a stab at a culture whose films I have seen less than I feel I should have, and I have seen less that I was enormously impressed with than I feel this country has the potential to put out (although I do have a good deal of fondness for Ushpizin). Israel’s culture is one of the most complicated and precarious in the modern world, and as such, interesting and varied art can only follow.

And how correct I was. This year’s selection is sure to pique the interest of a dynamic taste.

Policeman

The film starts with a long bit of stuff showing police officers do manly things and then discussing melodramatic topics such as birth and brain tumors, which raises the stakes extremely high and doesn’t actually add to the characters’ depth.  Then it continues to the youthful terrorist revolutionary group, who we also don’t really explore very deeply.

The cinematography and acting are all quite good, and it gets interesting when the action starts, but the film fails miserably at getting us to care about the characters, which takes up more than 60% of the film.  However, the interesting and confused political message is certainly worth considering – that is, the class differences in Israel being neglected by the pure focus on the Palestinian vs. Israeli conflict.

The Exchange

The Exchange is a surprise, and is impossible to classify. We follow a university PhD student as he seems to slowly become more isolated from the world, and especially from his wife, who is following suit in turn. The pacing is very subdued, and the acting is realistic and down-tempo. We begin to mistrust the world as he does, and the atmosphere takes on a rather mysterious air, as very little makes logical sense in the film – and almost nothing is explained.

The cinematography is fantastic, and takes advantage of one of the abilities unique to cinema as an art – the ability to watch the world as an isolated observer from afar. Everything about this film is soft-spoken and strange, but with a vast amount of consideration resulting from the material. Highly recommended.

The Law In These Parts

Brilliant.

If anyone has discussed documentary filmmaking with me, or has followed my writing about the subject and the specific films that I adore, you will notice that the documentary films that do not pretend to be objective, but rather allow their subjectivity to be visible, rather than subtly obscured (as there is no objectivity behind the controller of the camera – it is only the camera which is objective), are those which I am often enamoured with.

The Law In These Parts discusses very heavily the constructs of the legal framework of the military occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israeli government. Those living in the Palestinian territories are subject to a different system of laws than the Israelis, decided by regional military commanders rather than a parliament. Through showing how the orders grew, and how military court decisions changed over time, we are given an understanding of how the present occupation has come to fruition.

But we are also shown that this is the filmmaker’s opinion, and he points out that he is cutting and editing the interviews as he feels is necessary, or, at times, to emulate the logical reasoning of those whom he interviewed. Every technical aspect of the documentary is willingly self-referential and points out that this is a film, created by a person with an opinion, and one whose opinions are not solid fact, but rather one who is investigating something and presenting an argument for us to decide. In this way, it is all the more intriguing.

An absolute must-see.

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