Saturday, December 5, 2020

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Objector

I’m delighted to be returning for the seventh time to cover the Other Israel Film Festival, which features a diverse crop of Israeli and Palestinian cinema and is hosted by the JCC Manhattan. The 14th Annual Other Israel Film Festival runs virtually December 3rd-10th, 2020.

Directed by Molly Stuart
Ticket Information

During the Vietnam War, it became clear just how strong the sentiment of many in the United States was against the idea of fighting in a conflict that wasn’t compatible with their sense of morality. A nationwide draft, through employed numerous times during war, has not occurred since then. In Israel, however, all Israeli citizens are required to enlist in the military at age eighteen, which creates a culture where everyone is assumed to have served. While exemptions do occur for religious and other reasons, there is an increasing movement against mandatory service based on the objection of recruits to the idea of helping to sustain an occupation.

Atalya is a young Israeli who is set to join the army when she turns eighteen. Her sympathies to the plight of Palestinians have compelled her to do more research of her own and familiarize herself with the human component of a system that she views as highly discriminatory and very problematic. She speaks to members of her family who are unhappy with her decision to protest and her plan to go to jail rather than cooperatively enlist, imparting to her both a sense of the necessity of service and what they view as shortsighted hopes of reconciliation with a population they don’t believe is actually interested in peace.

Like others who feel that they have been indoctrinated with a certain mentality and force-fed only one side of the story, Atalya feels a particular drive to push back because of how stuck in their ways she sees her parents and her community members as being. There are forceful perspectives conveyed from everyone interviewed, including a family member who tells her that “nonviolence is for the weak, and Israel isn’t weak.” One Palestinian Atalya speaks to about his experiences explicitly distinguishes between the occupation and Jews, nothing that the former is evil while the latter are not.

What this film portrays above anything else is authenticity, since Atalya is transmitting what she truthfully believes, and putting her life on the line to make sure that she sticks to her principles. Everyone she interacts with, regardless of how they see things, offers her their honest take, and, opinionated as she is, Atalya does seem willing to listen even if her mind is made up. This film portrays all options as equally valid, showcasing the passionate outlook of one person and her need to do what she can to change the narrative.


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