DVD: Censored Voices

CensoredDVDSTUDIO: Music Box Films | DIRECTOR: Mor Loushy
RELEASE DATE: 3/15/16 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: Opening Gala Q&A, interviews with Mor Lousy and Amoz Oz
SPECS: NR | 87 min. | Documentary | 1.77:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | Hebrew with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video | Overall

Is there a more insane quagmire in the history of human relations than that of Israel and Palestine? Two intertwined histories so deeply-rooted in the same patch of land, no solution can be proposed that won’t involve plenty of anger and suffering. But if any hope exists for a less-than-horrific outcome to this issue, it surely lies in newer generations freeing themselves from the baggage of their ancestors, allowing themselves to feel a compassion that’s been almost completely absent in recent history.

Enter Mor Loushy’s Censored Voices, a 2015 documentary about the Six-Day War, the Arab-Israeli battle of 1967. “New documentary” doesn’t quite describe this fascinating project completely built upon audio interviews with Israeli soldiers conducted by author Amos Oz and editor Avraham Shapira just days after the conflict ended. 70% of the material was censored by authorities, resulting in a book, The Seventh Day, that left much to be desired. Fast forward a few decades, when young filmmaker Loushy convinces Shapira to let her listen to—and subsequently release—the interviews.

CENSORED-VOICES-1To say Censored Voices is a “great doc” is underplaying the social value of this film immensely. From a filmmaking point of view, it’s a simple affair: powerful, personal recollections by young soldiers about a horrible experience they just went through where they emerged victors; equally powerful archival footage of the battles and aftermath of Israel’s occupation; portraits of those same soldiers, now as old men, listening to their younger selves bear all for the first time. Much has changed, yet nothing has changed—you can see it in their eyes, an acknowledgement that all their fears about the future have come true.

But here’s where the social value kicks in: you simply can’t watch this film and maintain the belief that this whole conflict is a black-and-white, good-versus-evil affair… not when the actual war heroes themselves are so full of doubt and remorse. Every possible idea you can imagine someone having is expressed sincerely here. How does a human being reconcile the fact that he acted justifiably in self-defense, yet feels incredibly dirty for murdering and destroying the lives of so many innocent people? How does one deal with the irony that you’re almost doing to others what Nazi Germany did to your parents 20 years ago? These aren’t ideas posed by European intellectuals, but by the Israeli soldiers themselves—and this is what lends these thoughts such inalienable street-cred. Israel wasn’t wrong, yet it wasn’t exactly right, either. And while their leaders were claiming a universal victory, these men, considered heroes by everyone around them, felt anything but heroic or victorious.

Mor Loushy’s direction is simple, but effective. The closest thing to narration comes from occasional archival news footage from an ABC field reporter. While it would have been nice for those of us who weren’t around to learn more about the back story of this war, that’s what Wikipedia is for. The question of who attacked whom and why becomes irrelevant when victor and victim both end up as losers, a poignant reminder that our own American leaders shouldn’t be so trigger happy about starting wars in the name of regime change. The consequences, the film tells us, last for generations.

The DVD’s bonus features provide some interesting illumination about how this project came about in the form in interviews with Oz and Loushy, as well as some lively film festival Q&A.


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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.