FILM: Lebanese critics blast Israel director’s ‘Lebanon’ 21Sep09 September 22, 2009


Al-Mustaqbal says award-winning film is an attempt to erase 40 years of ‘Israeli aggression’.

by Rana Moussaoui – BEIRUT  -  Middle East Online  -  21 September 2009

Israeli director Samuel Maoz’s “Lebanon” may have won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival but it has been given a hostile reception by critics and bloggers in the country it is named after.

“This film shows the Israeli point of view,” wrote the Venice correspondent of the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, which is aligned with the US-backed parliamentary majority.

“It depicts an operation of self-defence where the ‘Other’ does not exist, where the enemy is hidden, absent, treated as ‘terrorist’,” the correspondent wrote.

Maoz’s intensely personal film relives the director’s own experience as a young Israeli soldier in Lebanon in 1982 through the viewpoint of the tank’s gunner.

In the film, Israeli soldiers confined to their tank do not see the horrors and massacres they leave in their wake: a woman on the verge of insanity after the death of her child, an elderly man consumed by hate, the agony of a gutted donkey, and more.

And while the director has said his film was not political, many Lebanese journalists who saw the film during the Venice festival earlier this month are not convinced.

The daily Al-Mustaqbal said the film was an attempt to erase 40 years of “Israeli aggression.”

“The public here in Italy mourned the four soldiers who suffered — and not the victims of war,” it said.

“The film serves only to show the supposed humanity of the Zionist state, which wages war ‘against its will’ and ‘in pain’.”

The daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to the Syrian- and Iranian-backed opposition, also lambasted the film.

“Many thought it was an anti-war film that criticised the wars waged by the Israeli state and its military, but in reality it is nowhere near critical,” it said.

“(Maoz) merely tells of the psychological crisis experienced by four soldiers inside a tank,” the daily said.

“The film falls, as expected, into the logic that transforms the executioner into a victim or a quasi-victim,” An-Nahar wrote.

“Twenty-seven years after killing someone for the first time in his life, Maoz replaces the tank with a camera. The first is used to kill, the second to convince … but the truth is lost.”

Local critics have also drawn parallels with Israeli director Ari Folman’s 2008 animation “Waltz with Bashir,” which won a Golden Globe and earned an Oscar nomination.

“Maoz benefited from the wave started by Ari Folman at Cannes, and the Israeli trend of examining the tortured conscience continues with success,” wrote Al-Akhbar, which ran the headline “Waltz with Samuel Maoz!”

Also a former Israeli soldier who took part in the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Folman tells the story of “Ari,” who is haunted by the memories of the massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and sets off on a quest for a past he cannot remember.

Lebanese entries on blogs and Twitter are also filled with bitter reactions to “Lebanon.”

The blog “Angry Arab News Service” describes Maoz’s film as “an Israeli war movie that paid tribute to killers and butchers of the Israeli army who specialise in killing women in children.

“So this Zionist clown dedicates this movie (I will review it once I get my unpurchased copy) to the warriors and not to the victims of the terrorist Israeli warriors,” the blogger said.

“Great, another Israeli film about Lebanon that only humanises Israeli soldiers and not Lebanese/Palestinians victims,” said a tweet from Lebanon.

“Oh my God, the gall of this new Israel film ‘Lebanon’– if it was Hezbollah with guns defending against Israelis would it be so acclaimed,” said another tweet on the film by “RamsayShort.”

Like Folman’s “Waltz with Bashir” before it, “Lebanon” will not be screened in the tiny Mediterranean country due to a national policy of boycotting Israeli products.


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