Wednesday, April, 29, 09

Rachel – 16 March, 2003

by theradishpress

I went to see Simone Bitton’s documentary Rachel at the Tribeca Film Festival last night. I almost did not go, was in a weird already slightly depressed mood, but I did it. I stood in the rush tickets line, first there, but ended up buying an extra student ticket off some girl. The ticket scanner – all tickets have a bar code – could not read it at first and I was about to have to hunt down some NYU girl and take back my money, but it was their machine and I got in.

I am really glad I decided to go. I got into the theater about 30 minutes before the film started and sat myself all the way in the back at the aisle. The theater slowly filled and I knew that the director was present because a woman standing behind me in the rush tickets line was pulled out of line by an older white man to go meet Bitton. I was on the phone with Teejay at the time and we were slyly making jokes about getting in for free. (Total side note: Meg Ryan walked out of the cinema while I was in line. She has a movie playing at Tribeca).

According to the synopsis on Tribeca’s site, Bitton uses an objective direction to reveal the story of Rachel Corrie. For those who do not know, Rachel Corrie was a 24 year-old USer from Washington state who had gone to Palestine and worked with the International Solidarity Movement to take direct action against the Israeli government destroying Palestinian homes. On 16 March, 2003 she was bulldozed to death by Israeli military. The Israeli army claims that Rachel Corrie’s death was an accident, while her ISM peers as well as the Palestinian man whose home she was trying to defend from being bulldozed, state that the bulldozer driver saw Rachel Corrie and intentionally killed her. When I read the synopsis I thought to myself: There is no such thing as objectivity, so does this mean the movie is going to be blatantly pro-Israeli? In my experience when people or corporations or entities claim objectivity, it is not the case. Fox News, for example, makes the bold statement that they are “fair and balanced,” when they are in fact very clearly one-sided. I have nothing against them being one-sided, I do however, take issue with lying to my face. Perhaps their statement is not so bold, because it is more laughable. But objectivity is something that we are taught to pursue, at least here in the US. That there are always “two sides” to every story and both can be equally represented, when in fact there are always multiple sides. Hearing the various renditions and takes of a story does not mean we have to compromise our beliefs or our ideals or our principles. It takes great courage and intelligence to be able to hear what others have to say, particularly if it is in regard to something so serious or heavy. And when I say intelligence, I do not mean some sort of higher degree of education, let’s be clear.

Because my experience with the media as “objective” has generally meant that the media are in fact in support of things like Zionism, invading Iraq, etc., I thought that this supposed non-bias view would be pro-Israel. The movie, however, is anything but pro-Israel. I was pleasantly reminded that this is not a US film or a US filmmaker. This is not someone who seems to feeding a larger corporate agenda. This is a filmmaker who has her own personal views, political and social, and seeks to expose what she knows to be the truth. There is no objectivity in life or in death.

Bitton interviews Rachel Corrie’s ISM peers, an Israeli soldier stationed in Rafah where Rachel was killed, at the time, the military policeman who conducted the investigation, an Israeli military spokesperson, the Palestinian families ISM folks lived with, four of Rachel Corrie’s professors in Washington, an Israeli social justice activist who provided a space for some ISM folks, and others. Bitton’s intentions are clear: she is not here to say Palestinians are always in the right and Israelis are always in the wrong. She is however telling the story, one story of many, of a continuous invasion and destruction of lives by a government aware of their own lies and hypocrisy.

The Israeli soldier interviewed keeps his back to the camera and is filmed in shadows. He was not there on 16 March, 2003, but he was stationed in Rafah at the time and relates stories of shooting homes “for fun” as a scare tactic, destroying water coolers, and killing sometimes “innocent” people. (I am always amazed at the distinction made between those who are killed, that women and children are somehow more valuable than men, that civilians are more valuable than soldiers. Imagine being a soldier and knowing that your life is considered less than. Granted, they are in a profession of murder). As the soldier shared his experiences I expected to be angry at him. I expected to hate him. But I did not. He took part in some terrible things, and yet, he is also part of a larger system of destruction that takes place on a daily basis. I pitied him. Perhaps that is worse.

Rachel’s friends from ISM relate what happened and actions they took before Rachel’s death. Two of them read from Rachel’s diary, giving Rachel voice to herself. It is amazing to hear the insights she had and to also know the pain and guilt she felt regarding her own privilege, but the strength her experiences in Palestine gave her; it made her want to continue to work for social justice. She said she would love to date boys and go dancing, but she was not ready yet to leave. And she could not understand how we all did not take action to end such violence. The young Israeli activist who sheltered some of the ISM folks similarly states that he cannot imagine living in Israel, but anywhere really, and not taking action to stop and battle injustice. Bitton asks if one can strive for social justice without hope, and he says yes. I wish I could remember his exact words after that, but he basically says that one can work without hope, but that does not mean it has to be negative or in vain either.

The film unfolds in a mostly linear frame, after a brief review of Rachel’s death and two diary entries read aloud. Bitton chronicles Rachel’s experiences with stories from those she interviewed and reviews or “recaps” from the military. I was fascinated by the interviews with other ISM members. Some are still clearly shaken, one a little disillusioned, and some remain active in social justice work. As they move from talking about their general actions to Rachel’s death, there are pauses and lulls in words, there are quiverings voices and wandering eyes. They watched the friend get murdered. They carried her body. They traveled with her body.

There was a naive feeling, but also a privileged one, that as internationals, and as white folks, they – the ISM workers – would not be harmed.

As I watched the movie I realized that the accounts detailed by Israeli soldiers were read aloud over images of documents and photographs. Granted, Bitton revealed in the Q&A that getting Israeli military folks to agree to be on camera was difficult, but I also read it to show that these voices do not deserve a face to face personal account (though that could really be my own prejudice, after all, one soldier does share his story, just not face to face) and ultimately represent a larger system of oppression. There is one person responsible for driving the bulldozer and crushing Rachel Corrie, but again, this one person and the people stationed in Rafah are all part of the Israeli Army and the Israeli government, which systematically murders Palestinians.

I enjoyed hearing Rachel’s diary entries, getting to know her internal and moral struggles, her honesty, her commitment. It really struck me how easy it is to judge a situation we are outside of. I have my political and social ideas about Palestine and Israel, but as Rachel Corrie said, you cannot know until you are there. I spoke to a friend of mine about my sometimes annoyance at folks of privilege going to places in need and acting as saviors, but the truth is I have a hard time with large organizations or religious organizations presuming to know what is best for others. I could see the truth and commitment in Rachel Corrie and her colleagues, and they did not act as if they were saviors. There is an older Palestinian man who talks about the gratitude he felt towards Rachel and other ISM folks for coming to Palestine to help out. That he begged to help them in any way he could, and it made me think about the fact that I project my own feelings as a Muslim, Iranian, and Irish heritage person, someone who comes from people who have been colonized, and that my initial reaction to those in privilege reaching out is “I don’t want your handout,” but the truth is, I am not in the same situation as those Palestinians. And I have not gone over there to help either. I sit and watch and listen from a distance. I can only know so much from my perch.

Once the movie was over Simone Bitton was asked to come to front of the theater for a Q&A. The moderator asked her how she heard about Rachel Corrie’s story and her process in making the film. Bitton first welcomed Rachel Corrie’s parents to join her. Most viewers, myself included, were surprised and I began to cry. I heard the person seated next to me crying as well. That older white man who got the lady in line behind me in for free, that was Mr. Corrie.

The Q&A session was brief and I was so glad that Bitton was very gracious and asked Mr. and Mrs. Corrie to speak and answer questions. They all talked about still waiting for a formal investigation into Rachel’s death, the fact that so many Palestinians die without going noticed, that they (the Corries) participate in direct action in Palestine as a result of their daughter’s work, and Bitton talked briefly about her process interviewing people and her desire to investigate the investigation.

It was an overall great experience. Unfortunately I do not think I will be able to make any more screenings at Tribeca this year, but I am grateful to have made this one.

Friday, September, 5, 08

Palin, Biden, Obama, McCain…

Filed under: a moment in my head,what do i know — theradishpress @ 11:39 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by theradishpress

I do not have television, nor have watched DNC and RNC speeches online. I have read the transcripts. Palin definitely knows what to say and based on the words, how to say. They all do, let’s be honest.

This is like casting for a giant blockbuster film. Put your make up on. Memorize your lines. Lure people in, not with what you say, but HOW you say it. The Bush blockbuster has been a major action film with some serious comedic and tragic moments. Sometimes the tragedy has been comedy and vice versa. But it’s not just Bush. It’s the US blockbuster. It’s not as if Clinton refrained from dropping bombs. He was bombing Iraq too. Oh, but he gave them a break in Ramadhan. I mean, they’re fasting anyway, why kill them. Maybe with all the sanctions against them, Iraqis will starve quicker during that holy month.

Obama and McCain are not talking about ending war. Sure, sure Obama talks about pulling troops from Iraq, but within the same breath he mentions the “issue” of Iran and protecting Israel. Do listeners not ask: Why protect Israel specifically? What is the deal here? Apparently not. Apparently protecting Israel is just part of “our” (the US’s) job. And Obama did not elaborate on the “issue” of Iran, nor did Palin, nor has anyone.

Does Obama mean to pull troops from Iraq and then send them to Iran? Does McCain mean to send troops to Iran with those still in Iraq?

A friend once told me, when I said that Kerry would instill the draft, that there already is a draft; the poor draft. This is true. What options are given to people? None. Joining the military is not a choice. Not when death is part of that choice.

And I am still not voting. I refuse to select the lesser of two evils. Listen, it’s not two evils anyway, it’s all one giant evil with two heads. And voting did not matter when Bush was running either. There has been extnsive research done and some documentaries made on the “elections” of George Bush. The decision has already been made. If Obama is to be president, or McCain, that vote does not matter. Whoever has been selected as the next leader will be in that office, dropping bombs and serving the elite and ignoring the poor and spreading democracy one death at a time, whether they got the majority of votes or not.

And I will be one of the first to admit that I have not been out there protesting. I was not by Amy Goodman when she was arrested. I was not with those at the RNC who were attacked by police. I was not at the DNC demanding truth. Silence speaks volumes, and my lack of protest and the overall lack of protest from those of us who are in a state of terror as a result of this government, is our compliance. The only good that would come from the draft is that suddenly those who have been silent or too afraid to speak or too busy or too whatever, will fight back. And maybe that is why it won’t happen.

I am amazed at the inability to see through the illusions and allusions presented by these candidates, by these supposed “everyday” people. I am not like Obama or McCain or Palin or Biden. Trying to sell me your childhood or your marriage or whatever aspect of you and make it seem like we have something in common is not going to work. Maybe all we have in common is that we breathe the same air and are made of the same matter. I cannot relate to a woman who calls herself a dog or a man who uses his pain and suffering to win the votes of people, or a man who has counted himself among the elite at a university. I cannot relate to their privilege or their distance from reality. Maybe theirs is reality. Maybe I am living the lie. Maybe I am taking this deeper than I intended.

Thursday, April, 24, 08

The Bubble/Ha Buah

Filed under: a moment in my head — theradishpress @ 12:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

I watched The Bubble last weekend with KJ. My interest in it is that it is about an Israeli solider and Palestian who fall in love. And it is a gay love story. So, I thought, considering that Israelis and Palestinians generally seem to be able to come together on one issue, their dislike for gays, this movie may have some good things to say about conflict, fighting for rights, fighting for life, etc. I thought, “this movie is already going against the grain, maybe it will have some radical ideas.”

So, Ashraf, the Palestinian, and Noam, the Israeli, meet at a checkpoint. Maybe it is my own internalized oppression, the images I see on the media, words I hear, maybe it was that I am a seasoned movie viewer. I knew the moment I saw Ashraf what would happen. But before I get to that, let’s discuss some of the other bobo things in the movie. (I say discuss, because there are spaces for comments, though this clearly is just me at the moment…anyway).

Ashraf gets into Tel Aviv and meets Noam – Noam had dropped his identification card. Ashraf wants to remain in Tel Aviv, but must be there illegally. Noam’s ahole roommate agrees to get AShraf a job at his coffee shop, but with a Jewish name and the agreement that everyone pretends he is Jewish. So, why is Noam’s roommate an ahole? Let’s see, first off, he constantly talks about not wanting to be political. First off, you live in a fucking political world, and an area of the world that is entirely run by politics. (anyone who says they do not like to talk politics or don’t care about it, well, too bad, you are in it no matter what). Also, Noam’s roommate clearly does not like Ashraf or Palestinians at all. Noam’s other roommate is involved in politics. She is a leftist and she and her leftist friends are planning a Rave for Peace. Apparently getting high and dancing to trance music will bring peace to Israel and Palestine.

The thing is, none of them really defend Ashraf or Palestinians at key moments. For example, they meet another Israeli soldier at a bar who says something against Palestinians and Noam responds with “Oh, yeah, well, we all hate Arabs” while patting Ashraf on the shoulder. Really?! I mean, I get that you are trying to keep Ashraf from being found out, but really?! And it is not even addressed later on.

Also, how about the fact that Noam’s friends are developed. They are given some sort of character, some dimension. Even his roommate’s boyfriend is developed enough for the viewer to gain some sort of understanding of him. Ashraf’s family and brother-in-law on the other hand are completely flat. His brother-in-law is just angry and all we see of his sister is preparation for a wedding and her hate for Ashraf’s true identity when he outs himself. Every other Palestinian character is simply window dressing.

A huge point is made by Ashraf that he is distancing himself from his brother-in-law’s fanatic ways. Clearly, his brother is part of some sort of resistance. I guess fighting for your life is not important to Ashraf. And to make him likable the director and writer felt he needed to be not political as well. In fact, he isn’t even developed as well as Noam. Even Ashraf’s sister talks against her new husband’s fundamentalism. “And he swore he would stop when we got married.”

So, here is the best part. What I knew was going to eventually happen. After Ashraf’s sister is killed by accidental fire and Ashraf has already accepted the fact that he cannot be out to his family, he decides to take his brother-in-law’s place as a suicide bomber. Yup, of course. I guess all Palestinians are crazy, right? I guess they are all evil, right? I mean, this just proves the suspicions of everyone, but Noam. So, what is the moral? The moral is, do not trust Palestinians.

Ashraf blows himself up in front of th cafe he worked in, oh and right next to Noam, so they die together. How romantic. Meanwhile, Noam and his ahole roommate have already had a discussion about how they have never hooked up because they are the best of friends and soulmates, blah blah blah. So as soon as Ashraf blows himself and Noam up, cut over to roommate who feels a sudden sharp pain and KNOWS there is something wrong.

This movie was terrible. It was stereotypical and angering. It is racist. It is bullshit. Way to keep feeding into those lies.

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