Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s astonishing multiple-award-winning documentary, “The Law In These Parts,” recipient of the Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, will open in New York on November 14, 2012, followed by a national release via Cinema Guild, according to a press release. I’ve written before about this smart, provocative, and penetrating study of Israel’s legal system in the Occupied Territories, and I’m glad to see it’s getting a wider U.S. release.
So is its director. “Distributing ‘The Law In These Parts’ in the U.S. has two important values for us:,” said Ra’anan Alexandrowicz. “It is naturally important for us to have US audiences better informed about the situation in our country given the high involvement of the U.S. administration in the politics of our region.”
“But there is a second aspect: The questions that my film carries—questions about what happens to the concepts of Law and Justice when we try make them work in highly political contexts are questions that seem to me to be very relevant to the American public, and therefore we see ‘The Law In These Parts’ as a cautionary tale for our viewers here in the U.S.”
Writing for SundanceNow, in a piece that compared “5 Broken Cameras” to “The Law in These Parts” (both of which I’ve programmed at this coming week’s Maine International Film Festival), I recently wrote:
“In many ways, [‘The Law in These Parts’] serves as an essential counterpoint to 5 Broken Cameras, offering a more clinical and thorough explanation of the ways in which the Israeli state justifies its repressive actions against millions of other people living in the Occupied Territories.
Alexandrowicz effectively puts former Israeli military justices and prosecutors on trial for the way they’ve colluded with the IDF to sustain an unjust society and keep Palestinians under control.
Alexandrowicz places his interviewees literally atop a platform and interrogates them about the way in which the State of Israel has set the ground-rules for legalized oppression (from circumventing the Geneva Convention and using inhumane and extreme interrogation techniques, to finding new ways to claim Palestinian land for “security” reasons).
The interviewees are unbending as they are blunt, saying things like “security comes before human rights.” Or as one judge says, “Order and justice don’t always go hand in hand.”
5 Broken Cameras is heated; The Law in These Parts is dispassionate. But like Burnat’s film, it is also self-reflexively questions its own truth-value. Alexandrowicz places his subjects in an artificial set and presents himself, in silhouette, asking questions about the definition of documentary and history.
As with 5 Broken Cameras, Law’s formal conceit is crucial. When everything about Israel and Palestine is distilled through highly biased perspectives, it’s necessary to question what we’re seeing and what’s being said. Alexandrowicz, by including himself, also suggests his own culpability as an Israeli citizen; as he himself admits, one man’s freedom is another man’s repression.”