A complex subject given an earnest treatment - Not perfect, but not to be dismissed.
I first saw the trailer for this film some five or six years ago and then never heard of it again, which was a shame because I was really looking forward to seeing it on a big screen, shame then that it all but vanished and hasn't to the best of my knowledge ever had a proper release on UK shores. (I imported the DVD)
Though as quoted by others, this is based on the book of the same name, it only draws on the factual detail and uses the more human stories for its focus which for a drama dealing with an issue as complex and as controversial as the formation of the state of Israel is essential. Set against the backdrop of the events of 1946 in Palestine and the violence that followed, two friends who meet in America, one Arab and one Jewish find themselves on opposing sides of a conflict that is beyond their own making. Both of them realising that violence is not the solution do their best to stay out of it, but ultimately find this unavoidable.
The film focuses on their attempts to understand and deal with the historical events that they face, of which they little control over but have no choice but to get involved in.
The film has its strong points. The historical attention to period detail is very well done, the budget for this production is NOT low, as another reviewer has stated (factually inaccurate) nor does it look so. The blend of actual news footage from the time slips seamlessly with the way the film has been shot and invokes a feeling of genuine history. Points of history are sign posted with titles and everything is told neatly in chronological order.
Where the film is weaker however is the script. The friendship of the two friends feels rushed and unlikely, the acting is variable, some scenes are handled well while others feel the need to rush straight into melodrama without any real emotional investment to get there. On that level it feels more like a drama documentary where a mini-series would probably have served it better. Our main characters seem to just flow along with the story as the historical events unfold, rather than really being fully involved in them, maybe that's the point, but the strength of their emotional journey gets lost. The death of several supporting characters never seems to have the impact that it should and its hard to pin down the exact reason for this, but the scene at the end falls especially flat when it should have had me in tears.
Those criticisms aside this doesn't mean the film makes for uninteresting viewing. I have no personal affiliation to any side of this conflict, and the film seemed initially to strive to give both sides an equal voice, (Possibly Israel gets more screen time but their own atrocities in the conflict are not overlooked) certainly at first I didn't feel a bias one way or another, but after the first half it felt the Jewish characters became more and more noble where as the Arabs became more and more one dimensional but this just makes me want to do my own research on the subject, but does it make for a good movie?
The high production values, good acting despite struggling with a fairly orderly historical script, attention to detail and nice photography all make the film well above average. Nice turns from supporting cast such as Tom Conti, the under rated Rene Zagger and the ever strong Ian Holm give the leading cast great back up and Saïd Taghmaoui is always very watchable but their talents do make some of the weaker players stand out a little.
A film on this topic is going to stir emotions on anyone who might have an affiliation with one side or another, so maybe its more important what those who have little understanding of the origins of this seemingly never ending conflict gain some understanding of how it started and as a starting point for that education, you can certainly do far far worse than this. As a well made historical epic its not a bad film at all.
Unfortunately where the film is less convincing is in the conflict between the friendship of the two leads, I found it unrealistic and somewhat unbelievable and didn't quite create the dichotomy I had hoped for but simply watching the events of history unfold still made for captivating viewing.
This is a conflict I would love to see finally resolved in my life time for the sake of the generations that will follow in the footsteps of their relatives who were involved in these events. Dismissing the film so easily is simply not a tenable opinion.
There aren't enough films on this subject to make this one irrelevant and the simple truth is that no film on this topic will ever be completely successful, just as the search for an answer to finally allow all those involved to live side by side in harmony will go on for some time yet. If you have even the vaguest interest in the subject and can watch it from a neutral stand point, I would recommend it.
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