Saturday, June 29, 2013

"The Attack": Breakout film as a Palestinian surgeon working in Israel learns of his wife's ghastly crime

The Attack” (2012), from Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri , is indeed a breakout film willing to present moral ambiguity, dependent on perspective, and leave it unsettled.  It is based on the novel by Yasmina Khadra. 
A young Palestinian surgeon Amin Jaafari has a visa to work in Tel Aviv, while maintaining ties to his extended family in Nablus on the West Bank.  He has a satisfying marriage with Siham (Reymond Amsalem).  One night, while sleeping in a hotel in Tel Aviv, he gets a call from the police, When he comes in, the police interrogate him about their suspicion that his wife was the suicide bomber in a restaurant attack the day before that killed 17 people, including children, and maimed many more.  Eventually, they let him go, and Amin goes on a search, including a visit to his home town to explore more deeply his family roots and its ties to a possibly radical Islamic cleric.

Amin is bewildered by the idea that his wife could have been so callous with the lives of others, let along herself. Yet, even in his family, he encounters the idea that the “people” or tribe and the gross injustices vented on it (the Israeli West Bank settlements) outweigh normal Western respect for individual human life. Anyone can be conscripted as an involuntary combatant.  No one is a victim, in this thinking.  We saw the same ideology from two brothers who perpetrated the Boston Marathon attacks, which I feel have a personal aspect that is shocking.

When he visits his roots in Nablus, he is challenged by townspeople who fear that Shin Bet will follow him, leading to a major Israeli attack and seizure of their homes.  Perhaps that is a real practical threat in a world of enemies. 
Some observers have explained the suicide attacks from Palestinians as a consequence of the idea that shame is an unacceptable emotion, and the taking of Palestinian property without compensation evokes that emotion. (See review of “5 Broken Cameras” on June 5, and notes about activist George Meek.) 

The film, shot in full wide screen, has a lot of close-ups (which work better in standard aspect), and tends to blur the Middle Eastern urban landscapes in Tel Aviv and Nablus, which look quite interesting.  We want to see the details.  Visiting a place like Nablus on the West Bank is not practical for most people,  so a movie is an opportunity to show it. 
The official site from Cohen Media Group is here. The film is in Hebrew and Arabic, with subtitles. 
Wikipedia attribution link for Jacob’s Well in Nablus, 1912. Second picture comes from George Meek. 

I saw the film at the AMC Shirlington late Friday before a small crowd. 

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