Thurs Jan 30
The state of Israel and Palestine's constant struggle is in our faces daily, but only as an abstraction. While the drama plays out in the form of headlines, reactions, and reporting biased towards American interests, it's rare that we are presented with a truly human, personal view of the conflict, such as the one seen in Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's The Inner Tour. In 1999, Alexandrowicz accompanied a group of Palestinians--many of them refugees--into Israel on a tour bus, one of the only ways for Palestinians to enter Israeli-occupied territory at the time. (Since the conflicts of 2000, this is no longer an option.)
Subtle yet effective, the film simply follows the tour group and illuminates their reaction to seeing the land they once called home. Emotions are always held in check, but are clearly precarious under the surface. There are women who have lost their husbands, either by death or by prison. The youngest woman doesn't look a day past 30, and expresses her unfaltering love for her husband, a member of the PLO who's imprisoned for life for murdering an Israeli soldier. She condemns his deed, and yet understands his desire to defend Palestine.
The Inner Tour drives home the idea of Palestinians as real people suffering in ways other than violence. It's blatant in its appeal to empathy rather than reaction, but it's an important perspective, because the constant damage to the psyche of a displaced people will prove the most destructive, should the horror of the two peoples ever reach an end.
The most powerful parts of the film involve Abu Muhammad, an elderly man who has not returned to Israel since the conflict of '48. He lived his life there, defended his home there, and watched his children die there as the Israeli Army drove him out. He is quiet for the majority of the film, until he asks the bus driver to pull over. Muhammad walks into a grassy stretch of land off the roadside. After stopping to chew roots he pulls from the ground, he clears away some foliage--this is his father's grave. This was his home. Then, after some time of reflection, he gets back on the bus, and they drive off to their allotted homes on the West Bank.