New documentary throws brings the Six Days War back into sharp relief – and with it, questions the homeland's rocky foundations.
Mor Loushy revisits Israel's past in this brilliantly conceived documentary: taking old testimonies recorded by Israeli solders in the war, he plays back these tapes to the now aged veterans and observes their responses.
In 1967, led by the author Amos Oz and editor Avraham, a group of kibbutzniks joined together in intimate, taped conversations directly after returning from battlefield. In the recordings, the men discuss how their perspectives have changed with such short hindsight: contrasting blind joy felt by a freed nation with discomfort about their role in the violence.
Only a few of these recordings were permitted to gain a public hearing by the Israeli government, but now filmmaker Mor Loushy reveals them to the public for the first time, whilst confronting these same, now elderly kibbutzniks, with the voices of their past selves.
Overlaying the recordings with original footage and photographs, these film charts the Six Days war from its initial threat of siege from neighbouring countries. Once the immediate danger of invasion is overcome, however, the Israeli army continue their aggressive foray into enemy territory, embroiling civilians in the violence. As the retrospective conversations in the Kibbutz continue, a collective remorse begins to overwhelm the young soldiers.
Loushy's film triggers pertinent questions about the futility of the violence and Israeli religious propaganda – looking back as it does through a prism of so much successive violence.
There's candidness with which these young, idealistic men discuss the atrocities they've committed: one soldier describes driving through the Egyptian enemy as "like shooting at a shooting gallery in an amusement park...I was impressed by how calm I was. I almost felt like they weren't human." Later, another says, "we're not murderers. In the war, we all became murderers."
As Loushy's film works its way under its audience's skin, we feel empathy for these adulterated and disturbed young men – coupled with a sense of disgust. Confronted with distressing imagery we hear the soldiers admitting bluntly to revelling in the dehumanisation of their enemies.
The film rings frightening prescient about the future of the Israeli state: "Are we now doomed to live in the pauses between wars?" says one kibbutznik, imagining the future. "The next war will be crueller," another observes.
Loushy's film throws into sharp relief how this small period of six days changed a nation's future so wholly – the war that has ever complicated Israel's position. Looking to the present through this prism of past violence, Loushy's film silences the traditional 'talking heads' technique until the finale: these are 'listening heads', forced to confront their own past, their conservatism and prejudices silenced as the ghosts of their younger selves are brought into the room with them.
Loushy's film combines wider political questions with subtle observations about the fluidity of memory. A cleverly compiled documentary and essential watching for anyone seeking a new perspective on a seemingly endless conflict.
|What||Censored Voices film review London Film Festival: Best Documentary Competition|
99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 5DY | MAP
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
On 08 Oct 15, Curzon Soho | 8th October | 6.30pm
On 09 Oct 15, Rich Mix | 9th October | 6.30pm
|Price||£ determined by cinema | London Film Festival screenings £9–17.60|
|Website||Click here to go to the BFI website for ticket booking and more information|