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No. 17 (2003)

Video  -  Documentary  -  24 October 2004 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 57 users  
Reviews: 3 user | 2 critic

In June 2002, a bus on its way from Tel Aviv to Tiberius, was bombed and 17 people were killed. Of the dead, 16 were identified. Number 17 wasn't. The filmmakers document the search to identify the man no one identified as missing.

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Title: No. 17 (Video 2003)

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Storyline

A production crew of four people decides to look for the identity of the 17th victim who was killed in a suicide terrorist attack and buried in an unmarked grave. This film documents in real time over a period of six months the search for the identity of a man whose body was badly mutilated and whom no one claimed missing. Parallel to the story of the search for one victim's identity the film pursues numerous people's stories. Together these create a portrait of a society living under the shadow of death. When it seems that the investigation has reached a dead end a vague lead suddenly appears. Written by Anonymous

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Plot Keywords:

terrorism | middle east

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

TV-14
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Release Date:

24 October 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ha Harug Ha 17  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
A Riveting Search for Identity Amidst the Diversity of Israeli Society
5 December 2005 | by (Queens, NY) – See all my reviews

"No. 17 Is Anonymous" is a gripping cross between "CSI" and the post-9/11 Portraits in Grief bios of the victims that were in The New York Times. But where in the U.S. we're used to TV shows about murders of "John Does" in "Cold Case" files, this is Israel and so a bombing of a bus between Tiberius and Tel Aviv in June 2002 is just another terrorist attack.

What is different is that for the first time there is An Unknown Victim. And that there was a documentary filmmaker intrigued by this anonymity; David Ofek seems to be the only who cared, month after month.

Whereas U.S. forensics shows focus on high-tech equipment and data analysis, with almost no information available from the completely burned body, Ofek finds that thinking of the victim as a distinct human being, with a personality interacting with other people, is the way to try to solve his identity. With a very low tech video technique (we see him and his microphone and equipment throughout, and he serves as a model for a sketch at one point), suitable for an Independent Lens episode on PBS, Ofek not only conducts an investigation but serves as a guide through the fascinating assortment of people who each contribute to a piece of the puzzle in his search.

While we meet in depth a few of the diverse survivors of the attack, with the fascinating accidents of chance for who was on the bus, most of the self-portraits talked to the camera, with their home photos to illustrate their stories, are from key people who try to provide clues

  • a forensic anthropologist, a disabled employer who had reported a


missing home health aide, a sketch artist who marvelously puts the lie to the usefulness of computer facial analysis, a disabled veteran who runs a profit-making business from these deaths, etc. They are of a broad range of ages, family situations, ethnicities, religiosity, years in Israel, etc. The characteristics they use to identify themselves are in contrast to the information that can be collected about the anonymous victim.

The search is absolutely riveting. While the police seem apathetic and careless (there are funny scenes where the filmmaker tracks the official investigators down on vacation and at self-congratulatory promotion ceremonies), they seem as overwhelmed by the number of attacks as cops in U.S. big cities who have to shrug and move on with homicide cases.

There is no question that it is due to the filmmaker's obsession that the case is pursued. He gives up on one of the busy contacts and sets out on his own to find an avocational expert who provides key advice on how to proceed. He's the one who thinks to look through unclaimed items from the bus for clues. He tracks down translators in unusual places to help him identify one possibility. He's the one who puts up notices at bus stops and in the newspapers and gets radio interviews to promote the case. His passion creates sympathy as folks help him more and more with either expertise or fresh nuggets of information. We hear in the narration "one month has gone by," "three months has gone by," and so on for six months.

In what is almost a travelogue through Israel's diverse communities, of visitors, foreign workers and immigrants, of the religious and the informally secular, what turns out to be important are the vagaries of memory -- a casual comment, a cute guy's flirtation with a pretty girl-- and the there but for fortune - getting on a wrong bus, an impromptu vacation day.

It's about not making presumptions about people without knowing them. It's about what makes us human and individual.

This documentary is ripe for fictionalization as a movie, but it is very moving as a fascinating real-life tale.


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