Nekam Achat Mishtey Eynay
France / Israel, 2005
Review by Beth Gilligan
Posted on 11 October 2005
Source Les Films du Losange 35mm print
Features: The 43rd New York Film Festival
Israeli filmmaker Avi Mograbi’s latest documentary, Avenge But One of My Two Eyes, has an unabashedly provocative thesis. Throughout the film, Mograbi juxtaposes footage of Palestinians being humiliated by Israeli guards with scenes of Jewish tourists being regaled by tales of their ancestors’ historical struggles for freedom. Focusing on the oft-retold stories of Samson (who, after being blinded and humiliated by the Philistines, knocked an entire temple down to crush his oppressors) and Masada (the site where over 900 Jews committed suicide to resist becoming slaves of the conquering Romans), the director highlights the hypocrisy of his fellow countrymen for celebrating these ancient tales as they simultaneously condemn the Palestinians for acting out in a similarly violent manner.
Mograbi allows the footage he has captured to speak for itself, diving right into the material without any explication in the form of voiceover narration or written prologue. While this approach is arguably the most fitting way to tackle such a divisive issue, it can also be confusing. For instance, long stretches of the film feature a phone conversation between an Israeli and a Palestinian, the latter of whom is never seen onscreen. Had I not glimpsed the director prior to the screening, I might not have automatically guessed the Israeli pictured was him, and questions from the audience later made it clear there was widespread confusion as to who the person on the other end of the conversation was (it turns out he was simply a Palestinian friend of Mograbi’s).
While the film undoubtedly boasts a fresh way of approaching the conflict, the force of Mograbi’s argument gets bogged down by the way in which he chooses to present it. The director, who has long been active in his country’s peace movement, may be justifiably incensed at the biased national news coverage of the tensions between Israel and Palestine, but his decision to counter this with an equally one-sided screed seems counterproductive. Scene after scene depicts Palestinians being taunted by Israeli guards, while Israelis are shown entertaining affluent tour groups from America and Britain and partying at an extremist rock concert, where the singer exhorts his audience to seek revenge upon Palestine. While Mograbi has some interesting points to make, his film quickly becomes repetitive, for rather than exploring different facets of his argument, he chooses to drum his central point into viewers’ heads. Mograbi may boast one of the more original voices of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the rudimentary way in which he presents his ideas may preclude him from reaching a wider audience.