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Rock The Casbah

Dir: Yariv Horowitz.  Israel- France. 2012. 94mins

Plenty of rocks are flying through the air but there’s no literal Casbah around in Yariv Horowitz’s first film, a sobering ambiance piece taking place in 1989 and dealing with the Israeli occupation, the scene originally intended to be the West Bank, but by the time it reached the screen, moved to the Gaza Strip. A collection of violent incidents tentatively stringed together to portray the emotional and ethical quandaries of raw, immature young Israeli soldiers who are supposed to enforce an unbearable state of things, the picture attempts to offer an even-handed portrait of their confrontation with the Arab population, but ends up as an impressionistic report rather than a full scale dramatic experience.

An accurate, if partial, portrait of an ongoing tragedy, it has far more colour and oomph than depth.

Inspired by events Horowitz witnessed in 1989 as a military photographer in Nablus, a city on the West Bank now under of the Palestinian Authority and therefore out of the immediate reach of Israeli filmmakers, the film’s action is supposed to take place at the Shati refugee camp on the Gaza strip, but the year is still 1989, and prior to the Israeli withdrawal from the area.  It starts with a minor skirmish escalating to a full scale mob scene in the course of which an Israeli patrol loses one soldier, killed when a disaffected washing machine is dropped on him from one of the roofs. The other four members of the patrol are immediately positioned on that that same roof which becomes, to the utter distress of the Arab family leaving under it, an observation post for the Israeli army.

From this point on, it is all confrontations between the four soldiers manning the post, all four of them cliché of young Israeli recruits, but none explored in real depth. Tomer (Yon Tumarkin), a gentle soul, would rather be anywhere except in the Gaza Strip; Aki (Roy Nik), a vengeful roughneck, can’t think of anything better than the permission to empty his gun indiscriminately into the local population to make them pay for his friend’s death;  Haim (Iftah Raveh), an animal lover, is more interested in the local humus than he is on making war, and Ariel (Yotam Ishai), who finds himself unwillingly in charge of the other three and has only a few more weeks to serve, dreams of going off to Amsterdam and fix his head with all the free drugs he can get his hands on there. Finally there is Chaliba (Angel Bonnani), the captain who orders all of them around, older and more cynical, who is a bully who throws his weight around and couldn’t care less about purposes and ideals.

Not really interested in creating a plot with actual human relations and character development, the script is put together like a collage of TV reports, meandering from one predictable incident to the next until it suddenly reaches its climactic conclusion in which it suggests that given the right circumstances, even the most dedicated peacenik is bound to pull the trigger.

Though the separate incidents are well directed, the sets provide an impressively convincing background and the naturalistic acting is perfectly adequate, the lack of a coherent backbone to hold everything together is felt all through. An accurate, if partial portrait of an ongoing tragedy, it has far more colour and oomph than depth.

Production companies: Topia Communcations, United King Films

Producers: Michael Sharfstein, Moshe Edry, Leon Edry

International Sales: Film Boutique, www.filmboutique.com

Screenplay: Guy Myerson, Yariv Horowitz

Cinematography: Amnon Zalait

Editor: Itzhak Zhayek

Production designer: Ariel Glazer

Music: Assaf Amdursky

Main cast: Yon Tumarkin, Roy Nik, Iftah Rave, Yotam Ishai, Angel Bonnani, Henry David

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