Movies are meant to be an escape, allowing the audience to forget about the harsh realities from which they come.
But there are a few that take reality to the silver screen in the most unapologetic form of art imitating life.
“Rock the Casbah” is one such film screened to about 160 people in Ben Gurion University’s cinema on December 16. This was the first screening inside Israel, and OneVoice Israel combined a lecture by a retired military officer with the film to bring to light the similarities and differences between life and violence in Israel during the first Intifada and today.
Yuval Bar, 30, an OVI youth leader and student at BGU, describes the film as “unique” because of its attempt to show the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not only through the eyes of Israeli soldiers, but through their interactions with those around them.
“The movie reveals one of the hardest things about the military,” Yuval said. “It exposes the daily routine that grinds you. It shows the soldiers just going through the motions, being oblivious and not thinking, and the hostility between members of the company because of the high-stress situation.”
According to Yuval, the fictional film “followed” a company during the beginning of the first Intifada. The soldiers capture a building, use the roof as a lookout, and interact with those around them, including Palestinians whose house they occupy.
But what is truly unique about this film in the greater scope of Israeli cinema, Yuval said, is while it was created by Israelis for Israelis, it expands the role of the Palestinian characters.
“What you see is that the Palestinians have names and lines; they are participants in the film,” he explained. “They aren’t just there to be there…the Palestinian characters react to the soldiers. And in Israeli media this is a rare thing.”
“You can be sympathetic with all the groups in this movie,” Yuval continued. “The only characters you can’t associate with are the top-ranking officers. They are the enemies of both sides because they construct the situation.”
As a long-time peace advocate, Yuval thinks films like “Rock the Casbah” channels his energy in the right direction. Active since 1996 and a member of several peace organizations and political parties, Yuval found OVI after enrolling in BGU three years ago as a political science major. He has been involved in various social media campaigns, the newspaper headline contest, and the Two-State Solution Caucus in the Israeli Knesset while at OVI.
“I’ve been in the peace scene for a while, so I feel the conflict is a part of me,” Yuval said. “I see first-hand that Israeli society is less interested in the conflict when it should be the #1 issue on the agenda, and the film helps bring this to light.”
“Seeing the crowded cinema at my university and the positive reactions from the audience members on this thought-provoking film makes me reaffirm that I am doing the right thing – that I am on the side that fights for peace.”