Friday, August 09, 2013

Rights Reel: The Attack

A few years ago, we read Yasmina Khadra's book, The Attackabout a suicide bombing and a Palestinian doctor's quest for answers in it's wake. I'll be honest and say it wasn't one of our favorites and we thought we might have done better with one of the Algerian writer's other novels, such as the The Swallows of Kabul. But Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri thought otherwise and has made the book into a film. At Word and Film he explains, 
It’s a love story. It’s about taking your character and stonewalling him and making his quest harder. It’s about the ambivalence of living in two societies. Like I do. I’m still juggling between the Arabic society and my life in the West. And let’s not kid ourselves: It’s a great book. We changed the book; we changed its ending and added music and visuals. But the material is great. It’s not an intellectual book. It’s about a man who cannot comprehend what happened to him. This is emotional; it’s not analytical. 
Doueiri's film has received quite positive reviews and this may be one of those cases where the film improves on the book. Robert Worth, writing in a fascinating essay for the New York Times, "Can we imagine the life of a terrorist?" thinks so, especially praising Doueri's reluctance to assign motivation to the terrorist, and hinting that Khadra's military background may cause him to offer up unrealistic rationality in his fictional terrorist characters. I'm looking forward to seeing the film.

One place it won't be seen is the Middle East. The Arab League has banned the film, ostensibly because of a work rule that bars Lebanese, like director Ziad Doueiri, from working in Israel, where the movie was filmed. Doueiri believes that the film's sympathetic portrait of Israelis was the real motivation behind the Arab League boycott. Khadra is also incensed by the censorship, 
“While Syria is going up in flames, Iraq is suffering from countless suicide bombings, and Libya is sinking into disarray, the Arab League is taking it out on an artist,” Khadra said to The Times of Israel this week after the movie’s French premiere. “Isn’t that the height of obscenity?”
For more on how director Ziad Doueiri changed the novel and how his study of film, including Alan Resnais' Night and Fog transformed his view of Israelis listen to this interview from WBEZ's Worldview.

Have you seen the film? What did you think?
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