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Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers #22: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, ‘The Law In These Parts’

Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers #22: Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, 'The Law In These Parts'

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, whose documentary “The Inner Tour” played at the 2012 edition of Sundance, is back this year with the ambitious “The Law In These Parts,” a five chapter work that gets to the heart of Israel’s moral quandary.

What’s it about? Through archival footage and interviews, “The Law in These Parts” unravels one of the most enduring and damaging conflicts of our time.

Director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz says: “One of the things that happens when you make non-fiction cinema is that you touch people’s lives with your camera and at the same time, your life is touched by the people and reality you document. In mid 2004, I got a phone call a boy who had just turned 16 who was in The Inner Tour. He was taken from his home in the middle of the night by masked Israeli soldiers and charged with throwing stones at a military Jeep and was held in a maximum security prison. His family asked that I join them for his court hearing.

“For the first time in my life I found myself in an Israeli military court room, witnessing the mechanism with which my society purports to administer justice to Palestinian residents of the territories we have occupied since 1967. This event profoundly changed my understanding of the situation in which I live. 

“I can’t explain very well why I started making films – I loved cinema and I had the privilege of being able to go and study this kind of profession. In film school I focused on fiction but afterwards I found myself drawn to non-fiction cinema. This actually happened as an accident, I stumbled onto documentary film making. I stumbled onto something that interested me and shot 19 tapes with no experience as a documentary filmmaker – then I spent the next few years making sense out of that material. What I had at the end was the first meaningful film I had made and a passion for working with non-fiction materials.

“The Law in These Parts chronicles the legal mechanism created as part of Israel’s control over Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after their occupation in 1967. The film explores something which is theoretically there for people to see, but is completely hidden from society’s eye. My raw materials for making the film were laws, verdicts, appeals – some of the driest and least appealing materials that exist. When I discussed the concept with people or shared my writing about this project with them, they usually responded: “That’s really interesting, you should write a book,” or “And how are you going to make a film out of it?” The most common response was, “important subject – isn’t it better nowadays to create a website?”

“The biggest challenge was simply to make it work – to find the cinematic way to involve the viewers and not only to inform but also, and maybe more importantly, to implicate them. The story is at first a story about my society – Israeli society – and the specific impossible circumstance that it has put itself into by engaging in a prolonged Occupation. But it is also a story that is increasingly relevant for most Western Democracies, which face the dichotomy of cultivating democratic principles and ideologies on the one hand and creating circumstances on-the-ground which call for the opposite on the other. With the decade-long “global war on terror”, the dilemmas raised by 44-year Israeli experience of Occupation can and should echo a warning signal to the entire Western world with the blaring question: Can a democracy endure prolonged Occupation?”

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.

Keep checking here every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.

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