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December 21, 1984 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-12-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

16

Friday, December 21, 1984 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

MOVIES

A film frame-up?

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BY CARL ALPERT
Special to The Jewish News

Beyond the Walls, a
Haifa
new full-length Israel film prod-
uction, is already a major object of
interest and controversy. On the
one hand, it won the prize as best
film at the Venice International
Film Festival, and is being prom-
inently mentioned as an Oscar
contender. Critics in Israel have
hailed it as perhaps the best film
ever made here, a genuine break-
through to high international
standards.
On the other hand, it has been
condemned as being "pro-Arab,"
and Meir Kahane's followers have
noisily picketed local showings.
On the surface, Beyond the
Walls is a classic tale of the brut-
ality of life behind prison walls,
except that in this instance there
is a complicating factor: the in-
mates are Jews and Arabs who
hate each other, and find common
cause only in their hatred of the
prison system and the corrupt
warden.
The casting and the char-
acterizations would appear to
lend substance to the accusations
against the picture. The leader of
the Jewish prisoners is a bank
robber, excitable, dark, brooding,
a mean and vicious looking crimi-
nal. The leader of the Arabs,
though admittedly a terrorist, is
tall, handsome, blue-eyed,
classically heroic in manner. Is
this a deliberate attempt to con-
found accepted stereotypes?
The hostility between the two
groups crackles throughout, and
several times approaches a break-
ing point. The explosion, when it
does come, however, is directed
against the prison administra-
tion. The two groups, reluctantly
at first, find themselves united
against a common enemy. The
story is tense and well developed,
down to the climax which reaches
no clear or specific conclusion.
The Hebrew title really means
"Behind Bars," but the English
version provides a symbolic
suggestion that the unity of pur-
pose which Jews and Arabs found
under these circumstances in
prison could somehow be achieved
also "beyond" or outside the walls.
Cinema laurels aside, will the
picture be good for Israel? Will
viewers overseas be affected by
this presentation of an ugly side of
Israel's society, and tend to look
upon the brutality and corruption
of prison life, with its murders, its
drug addiction and its homosex-
ual animalism, as typical of life
and standards in Israel as a
whole? Or will they Lome away
with the feelings that some of the
domestic critics 11 • expressed?
The critic of M. awrote that
"we are all imprisoned together in
a common situation, and sooner or
later we shall discover that the
others are not animals, but
human beings like us; if we truly
will it, we can learn to live to-
gether."
To the Jerusalem Post the pic-
ture is an allegory, a message of
"peace and understanding."
Where films are often "pessimis-
tic concerning human behavior,
or critical, desperate, angry or
frustrated . . . very rarely are they
hopeful . . . which is what Beyond
the Walls manages to be and quite
successfully.



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Uri Barbash, the director, told
Yediot Ahronot that he did intend
symbolism, to the effect that "we
in Israel are in a prison of our own
making — a prison of prejudices
and group hatreds." No problems
are solved in the finale, but Bar-
bash intends to convey an up-beat
note. Common cause "is our hope
in this country," he says. Yet
Yediot cannot refrain from won-
dering why in general the Arabs
are presented as positive char-
acters, though we know they are
terrorists sentenced for killing
women and children, while the
Jewish prisoners are for the most
part negative and unpleasant.
A word of caution to the over-
seas viewer. The language on the
Hebrew ,sound track is in prison

The Hebrew title
really means 'Behind
Bars,' but the
English version
provides a symbolic
suggestion.

idiom, but for some reason the
English sub-titles, at least those
shown in Israel, descend to vul-
garity and gutter coarseness far
in excess of the original. Was this
supposed to make the picture con-
form to avant-garde require-
ments? Or is it simply recognition
of the fact that the Hebrew lan-
guage is deficient in a variety of
such expressions? At any rate,
Beyond the Walls packs enough
intrinsic punch without making it
necessary to resort to this sort of
cheapness.
Audiences overseas will soon
have opportunity to see the pic-
ture, which is being distributed by
Warner Brothers.

NEWS

Wagner chairs
YI retreat

New York — Rabbi Feivel
Wagner, former spiritual leader
.,of Young Israel of Greenfield, has
been selected to chair the program
of the Second Annual Midwinter
Torah Retreat of the National
Council of Young Israel in Feb-
ruary.
Rabbi Wagner announced that
the theme of the program would
be "The Torah Confronts Society:
Moral and Ethical Dilemmas."
For information, call the Na-
tional Council of Young Israel,
(212) 929-1525.

Award winner

New York — "Future Tech .. .
From Technion," a documentary
film illustrating the contribution
of the Technion and its graduates
to Israel's science-based indus-
tries, won a bronze medal in the
1984 International Film and TV
Festival of New York.

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