Saturday, November 5, 2022

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: The Soldier’s Opinion

I’m delighted to be returning for the eighth time to cover the Other Israel Film Festival, which features a diverse crop of thought-provoking and often difficult, complex, Israeli and Palestinian cinema and is hosted by the JCC Manhattan. The 16th Annual Other Israel Film Festival runs virtually and in-person November 3rd-10th, 2022.

The Soldier’s Opinion
Directed by Assaf Banitt
Ticket Information

Security is of paramount concern when it comes to any organization that relies on secrecy for its successful operation. That’s especially true of military bodies. Yet it’s been well-established, especially in recent years, that there are rampant issues that exist within armies, and there is much work to be done to make them both functional and healthy for those that serve within them. “The Soldier’s Opinion” tackles one particular facet of the Israeli army that is problematic: the censoring of soldiers’ letters and the use of private information to build intelligence reports on those same soldiers.

In his second documentary about the Israeli army, filmmaker Assaf Banitt gains extraordinary access to a number of people with tremendous insight into both sides of this process. He speaks to those who worked within the censorship office as they recount their memories of examining letters and getting to know the soldiers as if they were friends, recognizing their words and the relationships they had with the intended recipients of the letters. He also has several soldiers who look back at their own letters and recall how much has changed and how they can still remember the sentiments they felt at the time that they penned the letters.

Along with this probe of a system used to gather intelligence and project an image of strength, “The Soldier’s Opinion” addresses the evolution of technology and how the department that is the focus of the film no longer exists in the same way since the advent of the cellphone. Yet the idea is still the same, and there are varying perspectives offered by the censors about whether they should have done things differently or if they realized at the time that they were potentially acting in an unethical way, even if they were simply following orders.

While this study is specifically about the Israeli military, it’s surely applicable to a number of armies and government organizations across the world. How much a soldier is merely an extension of the army is a serious question, one that should be considered, along with the ethics of keeping everything covert, even problematic reports, despite security concerns. There are few answers to be found within Babbitt’s probe, but there is much information to be shared and pondered, all leading back to the same crucial source: the soldiers themselves.


No comments: