Here is a little known European documentary which screened at my college today. It apparently won some sort of awards and is extremely renowned among the couple thousand people worldwide who have seen it.
I am not one of those people.
The premise is interesting enough: portray the way one life was changed by the Madrid train bombing. This could've been extremely engaging and moving, but the film never finds the focus necessary to get across a solid point. There is a good reason for this; the filmmakers have no point to make! The film chaotically intercuts between footage of the injured girl Zahira, her family, various war footage, politicians, and reggae concerts. At one point in the so-called film, the Spanish prime minister pins the attacks on the Basque group ETA. There is a five minute long montage of stock footage randomly compiled from the past five years as thousands of people protest for an end to the lies. The film never adequately supports the claim that ETA was not guilty, nor did it even bother to display the evidence supporting the guilt of ETA. We're just supposed to take the director's word for it. The film is loaded with interviews and conversations, an entire microcosm of people who all feel the exact same way about politics. The only opposing viewpoints belong to the politicians who are only ever shown with the utmost contempt. Whenever Blair, Bush, or Aznar is shown defending his position, threatening music plays over while violent war footage and protests are cut in. The filmmakers refuse to even accept the possibility that an intelligent good-natured person might disagree.
Zahira is extremely likable and sympathetic, and I feel for her in real life. But we can't gauge her personal growth because never meet her before her injury. She is hardly shown. Most of the film plays out in scenes with dialog that plays as follows.
"Is she okay?" "Yes, she is very strong." "This must be hard for you." Those aren't exact quotes, but I think you get the drift. These scenes are usually followed by one of the speakers giving a musical performance in which he speaks out against the government.
Michael Moore gains a lot of criticism for being too biased, but he, at least, is very open about his bias. He knows he's making propaganda, and he does it extremely well. If you're going to argue politics with Michael Moore, you have to go with your proverbial pistols blazing. Even when I disagree with Moore, I respect him as an extremely talented director. His films are gripping, emotional, and funny.
This film makes no arguments at all. It simply says, "This is what you have to believe." It pulls itself in so many directions at once that it fails to say anything. Sadly, nowadays the formula for a renowned documentary is: foreign gory liberal - political analysis = accurate social appraisal? What is this film supposed to be about? Zahira coming to grips with her tragedy? Examination of social climate? Racism? The transcendent power of music? The last suggestion is the only one the film successfully captures, but the rest of the film is pointless in that respect. I'm reminded of a quote from an Al-Jezeera reporter in the film Control Room, "That wasn't analysis! That was hallucination!" He was referring to an American whose bias against the Iraq War was overwhelming and without reason. That was how I felt about Zahira's Peace. The film ends with two quotes. One is made by Gandhi, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." The other is from Zahira's brother. I don't remember it exactly, but it goes something like, "We have to look past the screens that show lies in order to see the truth." "For once, we agreed." - Michael Moore
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