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by Eugene Hernandez
November 30, 2005 11:00 AM
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DISPATCH FROM IDFA: Shamir's "5 Days," Inside The Tense -- But Bloodless -- Battle For Controversial

At IDFA Tuesday night, filmmaker Yoav Shamir after a screening of his new film, "5 Days"

Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's recent decision to remove Jewish settlers from land in the Gaza Strip is a move that has had a significant impact on the elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace process, even leading Sharon to leaving the ruling Likud party just a week ago. A new film that debuted at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) this week takes an inside look at how the country's Israeli Defense Force, with 40,000 troops, evicted 8,000 settlers from their homes, but maintained a pledge that no Jewish blood would be shed in the process. U.S. cable networks beamed sensational and emotional images live to the States as the events played out over a few days back in August, without offering the sort of context and insight available in a careful exploration of the situation.


Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's recent decision to remove Jewish settlers from land in the Gaza Strip is a move that has had a significant impact on the elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace process, even leading Sharon to leaving the ruling Likud party just a week ago. A new film that debuted at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) this week takes an inside look at how the country's Israeli Defense Force, with 40,000 troops, evicted 8,000 settlers from their homes, but maintained a pledge that no Jewish blood would be shed in the process. U.S. cable networks beamed sensational and emotional images live to the States as the events played out over a few days back in August, without offering the sort of context and insight available in a careful exploration of the situation.


Without giving much away, it's safe to say that Yoav Shamir's "5 Days" ends with a tease. Any presumption that his latest film would offer answers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be just that, but what the film does give is an insightful look at a tense conflict, depicting the posturing of both sides leading up to an inevitable conclusion. And along the way shows how a potentially explosive situation was resolved without violence. The director is best known in the U.S. for his critically acclaimed "Checkpoint" two years ago.


Shamir's new film takes place over five consecutive days, beginning on August 14, 2006 of this year, in Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. With seven film crews covering every development of this dramatic event in the conflict, Shamir, with cameras embedded with Army leadership and resistance forces, shows how the settlers on one side and the IDF on the other plan and execute their opposing strategies. His cameras are also inside resisting settlers homes, strategy session from both sides, and at a settlement a temple when IDF forces arrive for a dramatic confrontation at a settlement temple on the fifth day.


As the director explained during a Q & A session in Amsterdam on Tuesday, he was very surprised by what transpired. "There was so much tension, yet no violence," he said. Even so, the pure tension of the situation is palpable in "5 Days," Funding for the doc was provided by the Documentary Channel, DR TV, Keshet Broadcasting, SBS - Australia, VPRO, and Sundance Channel.


Shamir's producer was an IDF spokesperson, allowing the director considerable access as he closely followed IDF General Dan Harel, chief of the Southern Command, with his own camera. The filmmaker even reluctantly donned an IDF uniform for a period of time while shooting, allowing him true "fly on the wall" access, he explained. But, making "5 Days," which will have its North American premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, put the filmmaker in the position of following two adversaries he didn't particularly care for. "You had the Army on one side and the settlers on the other -- two sides you don't particularly like, its kind of a lose-lose situation (for me)," he said.


Regarding the settlers he elaborated, "I completely disagree with their being there and their goals," but despite this admitted bias against the settlers, he said he did not set out to offer a puff-piece favoring the IDF. Probed by an audience member about being biased in favor of the IDF, Shamir explained that he doesn't particularly care for either the settlers or the army and added that after the fact, while IDF censors did review his film, they left it as is. By the time the film was finished, any IDF secrets related to the events that were captured by Shamir's cameras were already useless to the settlers, since the evacuation was complete.


Shamir locked the film just last week, three months after shooting the movie. "It wasn't that difficult," he said Tuesday about bloodless removal of settlers during the five days in Gaza, "It gave me hope with other kinds of political disputes."

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