Thursday, March 5, 2009

"Closed Zone," from the director of animation of "Waltz with Bashir"

Yoni Goodman, the director of animation for the movie "Waltz with Bashir," created a very short film called "Closed Zone" to illustrate the effects of closure in Gaza. For the last 18 months, Israel has maintained a siege of Gaza, strictly limiting who and what enters or exits the small & overcrowded strip of land. (Despite having withdrawn the Jewish settlers from Gaza in 2005, Israel maintains control over Gaza's land, air and water borders, including indirect control over the Rafah border with Egypt.) This 1.5 minute film takes the perspective of an individual and shows what that closure looks like through his eyes. You can see it here:

The film was created for the organization Gisha: Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement, which is an Israeli human rights organization dedicated to protecting the freedom of movement for Palestinians. Their website is accessible and informative, with excellent reports on, among other things, the struggle to open Gaza's borders for aid and rebuilding materials and on the status of Gaza's students, trapped in Gaza and prevented from attending to their studies.

"Closed Zone" has garnered some media attention: Huffington Post and Ha'aretz wrote about it, with the Ha'aretz article pointing out Egypt's role in controlling the Rafah border. The film shows Egypt being pressured by Israel to keep the Rafah border closed. (The Ha'aretz article is here:

Sarah Anne Minkin

Lincoln Shlensky adds:

It is notable that with the release of this animated short the animator (Yoni Goodman), and not the director (Ari Folman), of "Waltz with Bashir" makes the historical connection between the Sabra and Shatila massacre and the present Israeli occupation. Folman's feature film, as others have pointed out, avoids any explicit discussion or analysis of this crucial historical link, and so the film feels politically disengaged from the present political context (and from what we now know of the strategic aims and historical consequences of Israel's 1982 Lebanon invasion). Jeffrey Skoller, who teaches film studies at the University of California, Berkeley, has argued that Folman's film therefore seems to be engaged in an extended act of mourning for Israelis, but hardly for Palestinians, and so ends up being largely self-serving. Goodman's short new film is surprisingly devoid of context as well, leaving it to the viewer to understand and fill in the history of Palestinian dispossession that gives context to his "everyman" character's feeling of being walled in from all sides in Gaza.

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Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
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Alistair Welchman
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fjb said...

Having been able to see Waltz with Bashir a couple of weeks ago, I felt it was likely meant to be a study of the after-effects of war, particularly ones like those Israel tends to initiate, on the soldiers who fight them rather than attempting to be a historical accounting of the events.

Shel said...

The critical comments about the two Israeli animators contained in Lincoln Shlensky's post, or maybe just their tone, strike me as morally obtuse and politically unwise. IMO, safe, uncompromised North Americans should resist the temptation to point fingers at the self-involvement of Israeli disaffected by their treatment of the Palestinians. Hopeful steps should be encouraged, not second guessed, or, of course, over praised.

Anonymous said...

God only knows about everybody's inner motives for doing things - so I leave that to Him to judge. I certainly hope Yoni Goodman's motives were pure.

However that doesn't mean we shouldn't be critical and alert - especially when there's so much war propaganda going on. Truth hurts, but it also sets you free.

I found Lincoln Shlensky's comments very interesting and morally right - far from obtuse. Sometimes you have to make a stand for honesty, even if it's politically unwise in a short run. In the longer run it may pay off. And even if it didn't, it's the right thing to do.

About Yoni Goodman's comments, I found it disturbing when he said: "People talk about Hamas, but there are many civilians there who are not Hamas supporters but who are suffering from this blockade," - innuating that only those who don't support Hamas are the normal people you could relate to. It seems like he doesn't understand why people support Hamas.

The second point that disturbed me with his comments was this: Goodman said that as an Israeli, he hoped the film could challenge the view that most Israelis favor violence.

"I want people in the West to see it, to see that there are people in Israel who are against war, who want peace," he said.

If over 90% of the Israeli population supported the 'war' (ie. massacre) in Gaza - isn't that the majority? So, is this just whitewashing the image of the Israelis, or not? It is quite disturbing.

Sure I hope the Jewish anti-war voices would be heard in Israel and in the world, but then you should also be honest and tell that they are in the minority. If I'm wrong, I'd only be very happy to hear that.