From GAZA STRIP to CLOSE, CLOSED, CLOSURE, several recent Israeli documentaries have dealt plainly with the Palestinian experience in the occupied territories. This controversial and heartbreaking film from Israeli filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, however, shifts its focus east, as a bus load of Palestinian tourists traveling through Israel come face-to-face with a thriving nation and a history that has replaced their own. Even though the film was shot several months before the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, the film shows that even during a time of relative peace, a certain amount of ingenuity was necessary for Arab residents of the territories to cross the border separating the West Bank from Israel known as "the Green Line." One way for Palestinians to obtain the required special entry permits was to participate in an organized tour, which is exactly what Alexandrowicz's subjects, many of them refugees who fled to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the 1949 and 1967 wars, do in order to visit the country once called Palestine. Departing from the West Bank city of Ramalla, then switching to an Israeli bus at an Israeli checkpoint, the tour makes its way east for a three-day excursion. On the surface, the trip is little more than a three day historical tour through the Holy Land, beginning with notable sites along the northern coast, then continuing south into the center of the country. What's painfully obvious to the passengers, however, is how much the landscape has changed over the past 50 years a Palestinian math teacher carries a map of all the Arab villages that were replaced by Israeli settlements and how little the official history offered to them by the Israeli tour guides matches what they believe to be true. They're told that their grandfather's armies who fought to save their villages from settlers were "Arab gangs," that the agricultural museum at the Israeli settlement of Zippori, once Saffuriyya, a fortress and the site of the largest Arab village, teaches them that the site was originally an important Jewish center during Roman times. The tourists wander through the sites, settlements and exhibits like time travelers returning to a home they no longer recognize, conflicted about their past and uncertain of the future. As one passenger succinctly puts it, "I don't know whether to cry for what was or what will be." The film's final image serves as a timely reminder that often what we're shown of a conflict is only one side of a complex story, rendering such films as this all the more crucial to a fuller understanding.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: NR
- Review: From GAZA STRIP to CLOSE, CLOSED, CLOSURE, several recent Israeli documentaries have dealt plainly with the Palestinian experience in the occupied territories. This controversial and heartbreaking film from Israeli filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, however,… (more)