Wall, 2004

Favorably recalling the rigorous imagery, desolation, and despiritualized landscapes of Chantal Akerman (most notably, in the opening sequences of the U.S.-Mexican border wall and off-camera interviews of From the Other Side), Wall is an evocatively shot, visually understated, and meditatively paced exposition on the social, political, economic, and psychological repercussions of the Israeli government’s long-term funding of a work-in-progress, multi-phase construction project to erect a high-security separation wall between Israeli and Palestinian communities as a part of an envisioned first-line defense against terrorist infiltration. From the opening long shot sequence of the slow assembly of massive concrete barriers that bisect – and ultimately obstruct – the view of the horizon, filmmaker Simone Bitton creates a powerful metaphor for the defiance of nature through the creation of self-isolating, man-made barriers. Interweaving hyperextended sequences of the oppressive, formidable wall with interviews of people from both communities as they articulate the worthlessness, superficiality, and social insensitivity of the artificial obstruction as a deterrent tool for national security (and perhaps, overt disenfranchisement), Bitton creates a compelling portrait of the inutility of politically instituted, delusive panaceas in the absence of true communication and the brokering of a just peace: an Iraqi-native migrant laborer is grateful for the work provided by the massive construction project in the economically depressed region even as he longs to return to his homeland and rebuild his life (and country) after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a Palestinian farmer expresses his concern that the placement of the wall is only the start of a strategic plan to annex his land under the premise of upholding security, an Israeli father wistfully comments on the children’s instilled fear of playing outdoors and offers his home to the leaders of both nations as a neutral ground for launching peace talks, a Jewish man whose elders survived the imprisonment of concentration camps underscores the irony of the country’s decision to imprison itself.

Perhaps the most reflective of this cross-cultural sentiment of helplessness and inutility towards the wall is encapsulated in the sentiment of an Israeli community leader who had moved to the open spaces of the country only to find that he was forbidden to cross the border and visit his Palestinian neighbors. In 2000, seizing on the national headline news of an Arab boy who had drowned while saving two Israeli boys on the beach in order to initiate a goodwill gesture between the two communities, he soon found his olive branch efforts stalled by bureaucracy before being effectively cancelled by the advent of the second intifada. Addressing the neighboring city’s mayor and his colleagues, he expresses his continued dedication towards meeting them and working towards the realization of an Arab-Israeli reconciliation within his lifetime.

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