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A haunting portrait of one of the most profound geographical markers of our time
Simone Bitton etches a haunting portrait of one of the most profound geographical markers of our time: the wall of separation constructed by Israel that shields it from adjacent, conflicted Palestinian territories. With masterful restraint, Bitton both abstracts her subject and extracts its key contradiction as a strangulating protector of life.
Traversing various regions, Bitton interviews Palestinian and Jewish subjects (many off camera) regarding the wall's significance. These, along with an Israeli Defense official interviewed in his office, alternately decry Palestinian terrorism and alleged crimes, or term the construction of the wall a disguised Israeli landgrab. Many question the wall's efficacy and its long-range benefits, bemoaning their separation from neighbors and friends.
Bitton, herself an Arab and a Jew, presents the barrier in stark visual schemes that emphasize its stultifying surface and scarring of idyllic landscapes where, previously, "sides" might not have been so distinct. This exquisite visual aridity, an austere editorial pace, and magnificently layered ambient sound create an atmosphere of stagnation and futile clamor, fairly compelling the wall to speak its own irony. It is through such sparing means that Bitton most strikingly confronts her implacable subject, its dialogue of silence implicitly debating all the things that silence signifies and conceals. Shannon Kelley
Dans, Grozny dans (2002)
Beautiful, moving, and informative
Almost all of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, has been destroyed in two bloody wars with Russia and the once-thriving city is now virtually a ghost town. Among the remaining residents is a dance ensemble comprising Chechen children aged six to sixteen. With their master, Ramzan Akhmadov, they embark on a two-month tour of Europe, performing in cities like Amsterdam, London, Krakow and Warsaw. In the rubble of a city ravaged by the bombing and mortar fire of the Russian army, they rehearse their traditional dance. For these desperate children, dancing is more than a picturesque spectacle: it is art as a way of affirming existence, indeed of staving off madness. Filming the children on tour and on stage, Jos de Putter captures moments of pure grace and shows the innocence of childhood, the strength of tradition, and the spirit of solidarity that bonds the small community.