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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May 2005, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
Palestinian film brings occupation home
By Richard Allen Greene
BBC News

Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories makes headlines almost every day - but its occupation of individual homes is less well known.

That may change with the release of a new film, Private, which dramatises just such an event.

Hend Ayoub and Amir Hasayen in a scene from Private (Courtesy photo)
The children respond to occupation in a variety of different ways

Starring the controversial Palestinian actor-director Mohammad Bakri, the tense, claustrophobic film avoids taking simplistic stands.

And it even stretches tentatively towards optimism as it draws to an end.

That may be in part because the head of the family on which it is loosely based insists on seeing the humanity in the soldiers who occupy his house in the Gaza Strip.

At a recent screening organised by Amnesty International, Khalil Bashir, whose own house in Gaza has been taken over by Israeli soldiers, delivered a recorded statement about his own relationship with the troops.

"There is a chance to co-exist with the Israelis. I sometimes read this in the eyes of the soldiers who come and imprison me and my family in only one room.

"I read in their eyes that they behave professionally, but they are not willing, they are not satisfied with what they are doing against me."

Avoiding stereotypes

The Palestinian family at the centre of the film - professional, well-educated parents and their five school-aged children - display a range of responses to the takeover of their house by soldiers using it as a base.

Mohammad, the father, insists the family stay in their home - his own means of resistance.

Israeli soldiers relax in a scene from the film Private (Courtesy photo)
The film avoids stereotyping Israelis as mindless oppressors

Played with fierce conviction by Mr Bakri - whose own film Jenin, Jenin was not allowed to be shown in Israel until a court overturned the ban - the character shows that struggle need not be overtly violent.

It is a message his eldest daughter, the strong-willed Mariam (Hend Ayoub), has difficulty understanding.

Her own resistance takes a much more dangerous form - as does that of her mechanically inclined younger brother Jamal (Marco Alsaying).

The Italian-made film could easily have descended into propaganda by rendering the young Israeli soldiers as inhuman oppressors.

But they, too, represent a variety of types, from the stressed-out commander, Ofer (Lior Miller), to the dreamy conscript who plays flute to pass the time.

Ofer's second-in-command makes a fine foil to the leader, taking a stand at two critical junctures to prevent tragedy.

But while the second incident helps complete the lesson Mohammad has been trying to teach Mariam, the film does not descend into easy love-thy-neighbour sentiment.

For while Mariam may have her epiphany, she is not the only one of Mohammad's children to be changed by the occupation.

And while she decides to follow her stoic father's example, one of her siblings does not.

Israel's court defeats film ban
31 Aug 04 |  Entertainment
Israel court lifts Jenin film ban
11 Nov 03 |  Middle East
Israeli soldiers sue over film
26 Feb 03 |  Middle East

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