July 12, 2008

Wars in Lebanon

I have just published a post (in French, I'm afraid) on Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman's movie on what is now referred to as the "first" Lebanon War.

But it would be unfair not to write as well on the excellent movie about the "second" Lebanon War by Yariv Mozer: My First War.

[I let my rice burn on the gas while I was pondering how to introduce these two movies side-by-side, the first about the "first" and the second about the "second" but entitled "My First...", the animated movie twenty years later and the documentary filmed on the spot... As a matter of fact, the two movies share very little, either formally or with regard to the point they make so I won't make any comparison.]

I write therefore I am. I film therefore I live?

Yariv Mozer, a munitions officer in the reserve was called two weeks into the Second Lebanon War. From a Jerusalem Post article:
When Yariv Mozer got an unexpected call-up to replace a shell-shocked officer who had left the battlefield in the Second Lebanon War, he instinctively reached for his camera. [...] The unprofessional, mini DV had poor sound quality, one battery and five cassettes.

"The idea of going to war was frightening for me, and bringing the camera was a way for me to overcome my fear [...]," [he] says. "I didn't set out with the intention to film a documentary."

When he arrived in the North, Mozer was horrified by the irony of the situation. [...]

Generally, a feeling of disorganization and bedlam worsens as the war progresses. Rockets fall, tanks are destroyed with sophisticated anti-tank missiles, more and more soldiers are killed and the atmosphere is one of defeat and senselessness. Orders are given and then retracted. [...]
In the midst of confusion, even minutes before or after combat operations, Yariv Mozer points his camera and asks bluntly soldiers and officers for their opinion, on the spot. Faced with an amateur camera, and asked for their opinions, their feelings, they didn't mince their words: "Somebody sent soldiers to die," said Reuven Saadon. "Fuck them all. I've lost all trust. ... Next time no one will show up," says an unidentified officer. "Operations always turn into rescue missions rather offensive actions," says Guy Shaked.

From the same article:
Mozer describes My First War as a documentary about the people involved in war and says that while his point of view influences the way the documentary is edited, he is less interested in his own reactions than those of his heroes, who he revisits after the war to see how they are faring in their daily lives. "Each of the six characters I chose clearly reflects something I see in myself, and I could not have asked for a better script if it were written for me."
Indeed, Mozer concentrated on six characters, whom he followed when his responsibilities let him do so during the war, and whom he met again after the war.

Most striking to me was Aharale Yechezkel: Mozer meets him on the front the moment he's back from the funeral of his cousin who was killed in action the previous day. Although he claims to be "perfectly fine" from an "operational" point of view, saying "you shift into automatic gear and go back", he's completely shocked.

After the war, Yechezkel suffered from PTSD. He could not work anymore and stopped answering the phone. Guy Shaked left for Kenya. Idan Taler took up Thai boxing passionately. All were transformed by the experience. While others praise (or blame) the film for renewing the debate on how the war was waged, I remember these six people who lived through a traumatic war and opened their emotions to the camera during it and after it.

Channel 10 news video
London & Kirchenbaum
Washington Post

PS: The title of this post is an allusion to War in the Land of Egypt, a very moving short novel by by Yusuf Al-Qa'id taking place during the Kippur war.

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