There were moments as I watched “The Attack,” the new film about an Israeli Arab surgeon whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, that I wanted to shut off my DVD player.
Seeing this gentle, urbane doctor roughed up by the coarse, bullet-headed Jewish Israeli intelligence agent was painful. I didn’t want to watch a Jew in power attack an innocent Arab, although such violence is no doubt commonplace in reality. Perhaps like Amin Jaafari, the film’s unfortunate protagonist, I’m a little squeamish when it comes to seeing things as they are.
Later, when I interviewed Ziad Doueiri, “The Attack’s” Lebanese-born, American-trained director, he told me that the last thing he wanted his film to be was a statement on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“I assure you, this is not what made me choose this film,” he said.
He said he’d had his fill of the kind of “didactic” films about the conflict that are made routinely in the Arab world. Every character is a cutout. Israelis unsurprisingly are the heavies. You know what to expect. And you couldn’t evade the pro-Palestinian message if you tried.
“Any film that is pro-anything is not very interesting,” Doueiri told me.
The characters in “The Attack” are interesting because they are all different, and no one comes out looking very good in the end. This film isn’t pro-anybody.
But I think Doueiri’s viewpoint is worth considering in the Jewish and Israeli context. A person might be pro-Israel, for instance. But if he tries to make a pro-Israel work of art, don’t be surprised if it isn’t very interesting.
[email protected] Twitter: @davidholzel
See also: Doctor McDreamy’s Nightmare