I love film. Foreign and documentary, quirky and Indie; I even enjoy the occasional Hollywood Box Office buster or blunder. But my favorite films are the ones you don't see coming; the ones you have to pay attention to; the ones that force you outside of a black-and-white comfort zone and into the "grey area". Films like The Attack.
I had the pleasure of taking in an advance screening of The Attack (2012) a few weeks ago. I was intrigued from the get-go: a foreign film about a Palestinian surgeon living and practicing in Israel whose life is turned upside down when his wife is not only killed in a terrorist attack, but is the suspected suicide bomber.
The film opens to Dr. Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman) accepting a prestigious award--the first Arab to be so recognized in 41 years. Reflecting on peace, tolerance and cooperation, Jaafari is surrounded by Israeli friends and colleagues. The next day, a terrorist attack shakes Tel Aviv. Hours later--after the injured are rushed to Jaafari's operating room--he receives a call. His wife, Siham (Reymonde Amsellem), has been found among the dead, her corpse disfigured in a manner indicative of suicide bombers.
Grief, disbelief, anger, frustration, love, confusion, devotion; The Attack touches on all these and more as Jaafari struggles with the evidence presented. Following dropped clues, the doctor travels to the Palestinian territory of Nablus, in the West Bank, tracing his wife's last days. There, he's met with disturbing images of his wife lauded as a martyr; the people grateful to another rare female martyr for bringing attention to their plight.
The Attack takes its time, but is by no means slow, enabling the audience to journey with Jaafari as he pieces together the fears and motivations of the woman he thought he knew completely. The film makes no assumptions, leaving the audience with much the same internal conflict and unresolved moral ambiguity as its protagonist. The audience has unveiled the truth gradually and, like Jaafari, is free to make a decision. But the question is--can a decision be reached? Is the reality of the situation truly black-and-white?
This film is exactly what it should be: conflicted; passionate; grey. It provides a glimpse into the excruciating complexities that govern life in the region, asking more questions than it chooses to answer. Touching of issues of religion, values and morality, nationalism and loyalty--to oneself, to friends and family--it explores one potential means of driving an affluent and seemingly happy individual to the unthinkable.
Some have called it propaganda--to rationalize a terrorist attack? To give a face, a life, a motive, to a cause we're all familiar with via news media but that few of us have experienced directly? It may be propaganda, but if so it's the best kind. The Attack deals with a contentious issue head-on but does so in a way that's unexpected. It discusses a well-documented and hotly-discussed phenomenon (suicide bombings) but gives audiences room to draw their own conclusions, should they choose. It challenges viewers to consider a different perspective without making any assumptions as to whether that perspective is wrong or right. In short, it makes you think.
Deeply moving, thought-provoking and beautifully portrayed by the entire cast, The Attack is a serious film that provides a unique look into the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. The Attack--Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles--opened in Calgary yesterday, Thursday, September 5, at the Eau Claire Market Cineplex Odeon and is well worth the taking-in.