Monthly Archives: June 2016

“WONDERKID”— Homophobia in Soccer

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“Wonderkid”

Homophobia in Soccer

Amos Lassen

‘WONDERKID by Rhys Chapman tackles one of sport’s biggest issues – homophobia. Starring Chris Mason, The film is about the inner turmoil of a gay professional footballer and is part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about the lack of openly gay professionals in the sport.’

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Director Chapman comments, “With everything going on in the world currently this is a really important time for sexuality and gender issues. We have created an inspiring character (played by Chris Mason) who knows he is gay, accepts he is gay and wants to come out, but it is his profession that is holding him back.

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“If enough people see this film, it can make a huge difference in football. Anyone that watches this film will understand that everyone deserves to live their life free from fear. They will see that it is a simple solution and all that is required to make footballers feel safe enough to come out is the acceptance of the general public and it is down to us to send the message.”

“BACK IN TIME”— “Back to the Future” Movies and Modern Culture

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“Back In Time”

“Back to the Future” Movies and Modern Culture

Amos Lassen

“Back in Time” is a documentary that looks at the very real impact the “Back to the Future” movies have had on our culture. We see that what was once a little idea became something truly amazing that resonated through the culture.

The documentary was two years in the making and has footage of the original “Back to the Future” trilogy and interviews. We hear from Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, James Tolkan, Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox who speak about about their experiences with the movie.

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“Back in Time” began as a project conceived by Jason Aron, a fan of the “Back to the Future” for which 600 people together pledged over $45,000 in for it to be made. It “gets to the heart of the movie phenomenon, proving as enjoyable as the franchise it affectionately explores”, calling it “a delightful return to, and updating of, a beloved story”.

“Back to the Future” is one of those movies that you never forget nor do you forget the first time you saw it. It is as perfect as a film can be. Everything came together just right: the story, the actors, the music, the script, and so on. It has been 30 years since it opened and it is still one of the most popular movies ever.

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The documentary begins with a look at the making of the film. Director Robert Zemeckis, co-writer Bob Gale, producer Steven Spielberg, and stars Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson are share their memories, from inception to completion

From there, we see how the movie has stayed so popular. We see that it is so much more than just a movie but also something that has captured the public’s imagination.

Director Jason Aron had a little trouble with organization and the documentary bounces around with little or no transition but it is still a fun watch. But then “Back in Time” isn’t a straight “making-of” documentary and even though we get a degree of information, anecdotes, and memories of the shoot, it doesn’t linger anywhere for very long. And aside from an inspection of the futuristic elements of “Part II,” there’s basically nothing shared about the sequels aside fan appreciation. “Back in Time” is primarily devoted to the fans (after all that is who makes a film popular).

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“Back in Time” Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras  include:

  • “Rob Klein Props” (3:00, HD) takes a look at some of the finds collectors have discovered while hunting for anything “Back to the Future.”
  • “A Vegas Story” (3:01, HD) visits a Nevada car show to explore fandom out in the open air, discussing passions and replications with hardcore trilogy admirers.
  • “The Fans Talk DeLorean” (8:38, HD) concentrates on the special “Back to the Future” car, detailing restoration projects and love for the time machine.
  • “More from the Cast” (10:15, HD) collects a few more anecdotes from the stars, exploring careers before the trilogy and ensuing fame, even for supporting players.
  • “Mick Smith” (4:33, HD) chats up the pyrotechnician for “Part III,” who shares a few tales from the set, with emphasis on the climatic train explosion.
  • “Bit BTS” (6:38, HD) follows director Jason Aron and his crew as they travel around America gathering interviews for the documentary, highlighting on-camera mischief and awkward small talk with the talent.
  • And a Trailer (2:31, HD) is included.

“I ALWAYS SAID YES: THE MANY LIVES OF WAKEFIELD POOLE— Extended Director’s Cut Now Available

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“I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole”

Extended Director’s Cut Now Available

Amos Lassen

Wakefield Poole is a man to remember—dancer, choreographer and director; Poole was an early gay liberation worker. He made porn films but he says he was not a pornographer. He was first and foremost a filmmaker, one who used his backgrounds in theater and dance to make other movies that were sensually and erotically beautiful and he challenged both the mind and the status quo. There were those that loved his work and there were those who felt that he was doing little more than “dirty movies”. Now you can see Jim Tushinski’s wonderful documentary on Poole on Vimeo on Demand with exclusive extras or on iTunes or Amazon.

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Poole was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1936 and his life certainly was not one that could have been lived in Florida. He felt New York beckoning and in 1957 he joined the company of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

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Jim Tushinski has been working on this film for years and he should be very proud of what he gives us. He shows us a man who was openly gay at a time when not many gay men were out. He has been overlooked as a gay icon and historical figure but he was a pioneer in both of those fields. Poole lived at a strange time in American history and to be open about his homosexuality at a time when the closet was home to so many but he even went a step further and pushed sexuality onto the big screen. At that time, anyone involved in pornography could be put in jail or at the least face a trial and a heavy fine. To become internationally famous for making erotic films was something for a young man from the South. I believe it is fair to say that Poole invented the modern gay porn film but that is just one thing about Wakefield Poole. He was quite a dancer having danced on and choreographed for Broadway. He owned a boutique in San Francisco; he was an avid art collector and a leader.

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The year 1971 was a very important year for Poole. His film “Boys in the Sand” was screened at a New York movie house and this caused a revolution. The film was made on a very tight budget with a few friends and a hot new young man, Casey Donovan, who went on be a major person in gay erotica. So what was special about “Boys in the Sand”? First of all it had a bit of a story, good looking actors, a beautiful setting (The Pines) and sex. It was not just porn—it had a wonderful director in Poole.

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One of the amazing aspects of this film is the amount of research that director Tushinski did in order to give us a complete picture. Using Poole’s autobiography, “Dirty Poole: A Sensual Memoir”, Tushinski tracked down the people and the events that played important parts in his life. The director also had the plus that his subject was not just alive but a partner in the creation of this film.

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As I stated earlier Poole was a man of many faces and had friends and co-workers everywhere and from all classes of people. Some of you may be surprised to learn of his work with such Broadway luminaries as Richard Rodgers, Michael Bennett and Stephen Sondheim. He transitioned from stage to screen after seeing some Andy Warhol’s experimental films. He was well aware that gay porn was of inferior quality and decided that he could make quality gay porn films and thus “Boys in the Sand” was born in 1971. He made a star of Casey Donovan and brought porn to the attention of many. Poole said his porn “challenged the mind”—the quality of the film both artistically and plot wise was certainly a step up from what had been available until then. When we consider that the film was screened in a movie theater, we realize that it was indeed something quite big. This was a revolution for gay porn and for Poole. The film was made on a skimpy budget and featured Donovan and some of Poole’s friends but it created a whole new atmosphere and feelings about erotica. This was the first time that hot gay men had hot gay sex on screen and it became a very hot ticket attracting both gay and straight people.

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Poole’s next stop was San Francisco where he and Harvey Milk were close friends but unfortunately Poole became a coke addict and this cost him his art collection and leaving some of his artistic integrity on the side, he began to direct porn that was mass produced for a gay porn studio. Looking back at his life we are lucky to have him and see him get the kind of recognition that he deserves and yes, even though parts of this review is written in the past tense, Poole is very much alive. Even more important, this is not just a film about Wakefield Poole, it is a look at gay history.

“WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH GERALD?”— From Pain to Life

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“What’s the Matter with Gerald?”

From Pain to Life

Amos Lassen

I always am excited to hear about a new film from director Matt Riddlehoover. He never disappoints and always has a interesting film for us. This time he takes on a guy who seemingly has the perfect life but is not happy with it.

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Gerald (Jacob York), is a semi-alcoholic, thirty-something, trust-fund baby, who wakes up every morning in some sort of pain. He’s tried every thing medically that he can think of, including acupuncture and reflexology. When he’s referred to an eccentric jeweler (Kathy Cash), much to the embarrassment of his practical partner, Charles (Jonathan Everett), Gerald soon discovers he’s in for a whole lot more than retail therapy. With a touch of magic, the jeweler’s gems help Gerald ease the pain as he moves through a complete reexamination of his life in completely unexpected ways. The film is now on the festival circuit.

“EAT MY FATHER FOR DINNER”— A Personal Journey in a Few Words

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“EAT MY FATHER FOR DINNER”

A Personal Journey in a Few Words

Amos Lassen

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Li Bin directed “Eat My Father for Dinner” as a personal voyage into the lives, loves, relationships of a 21-year-old multi-talented director who stars in what can only be called one of the most original sexy queer movies in a long time. It is also one of the most uniquely named films I have heard of. This is China’s first gay mystical film. On a quiet afternoon, we meet a character as he wakes up, aware of that he is dying. He is taken to the hospital, resuscitated and then taken back home. A fantasy story begins with that the mysterious afternoon…

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“Comfort Zone” by Jim Flanagan— Finding a Place

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Flanagan, Jim. “Comfort Zone”, CreateSpace, 2016.

Finding A Place

Amos Lassen

I love reading new writers and being able to pat them on the back for a job well done. In the of Jim Flanagan and “Comfort Zone”, I got a double surprise—a good and well-written story and an author from my city. I had not heard of the book before I saw something about it in “The Gay and Lesbian Review” and I have yet to be disappointed by anything I have seen it.

“Comfort Zone” quite basically is the story of a young gay man from the southern part of America who finds romance and adventure in Denmark in 1989. We meet Todd Breech who faces the same conundrum that so many college graduates face. He does not know what to do with his life and the options that he has thus fore do nothing for him. One of them is to stay in Fayetteville (ever notice how many Southern states have a “Fayetteville”?) and work for his parents, born-again Christians who own Breech Archives. That would meaning driving a forklift and it really does not excite him. He also has the option of perhaps working at an industrial park near Raleigh. Todd’s third choice is the once that appeals to him the most and that is go to Denmark to be with the man he loves. So we see that there is an obvious winner here and Todd goes to Denmark to be with his boyfriend, M.H. They live in the village of Helborg, a conservative place where M.H. has always lived. While Todd would have had to live a conservative life had he stayed in America, but the opted for Denmark thinking that this would make life more real and allow him to be who he is, a gay man. There are those in Helborg who are determined to keep the place as it has always been.

The group who is determined to do this contains Communists, a surgeon who specializes in sexual reassignment, a world famous excrement artist (yes, you read that correctly) and M.H.’s mother and Todd’s mother-in-law. Todd and M. H. were able to marry when Denmark passed the world’s first registered partnership law. Now their lives are set out for them and what they have in store in that small village does not look very exciting or even interesting. He enrolls to learn Danish and this puts him in Copenhagen three days a week. The school where he studies is demanding and he finds himself in classes with immigrants, refugees, defectors, newlyweds and others. He is constantly kept on his toes knowing that he must be ready if he is called on. During one of the class breaks, Todd meets Dodo, a white man from Uganda with a seemingly never-ending supply of Valium and Corey, a black American gay divorcee.

We must remember that this story is set at a time when AIDS was debilitating our community. It is at this time also that the end of Communism is on its way. Todd realizes that the same problem that faced him on graduation from college and in front of him once again. Getting involved with his two new friends from his Danish class provided him with someone to talk to but also to confuse him and give him drugs. To find out what happens next, you will simply have to read “Comfort Zone”. Author Flanagan has created characters that are well drawn and relatable, especially Todd who faces what so many of us have faced. I became totally involved in the novel on the first page and in fact, I could put it down until I finished it.

“QUEER CITY”— Who We Are

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“Queer City”

Who We Are

Amos Lassen

Ever since the Stonewall riots of almost fifty years ago, life has become dramatically different for LGBTQ people. Before Stonewall we were identified by our oppression but have you stopped to think what identifies us now? But who are we now? 

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The gay movement began in New York City and just we have changed so has the city. “Queer City” looks at those untold stories. It does this through the lives of a highly diverse group of men and women who live there giving us a selection of stories that provide a compelling portrait of new American lives. We also see something about what the future holds for the LGBT community. There are still hateful bigots hanging around and there is still major opposition to who we are and how we live and there are scars we carry with us.

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We see the routine and the special in the film as it attempts to chronicle how we exist during a major time of change in this country. There are times that the documentary is absolutely hilarious and there are times that it is heartbreaking. The film brings the stories together almost like a fictional narrative and while this is set in New York City, the stories are resonant and relevant to every member of our community.

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We meet and follow “a tough, cool, working-class Latina from Queens with a gift for storytelling and a knack for falling in love”, an eighty-year-old English painter who grew up in the London Blitz and later sought refuge as a gay man in New York who now teaches art to Alzheimer’s patients, an exuberant bisexual woman who has forged a highly successful career as a director of gay adult film, a young, street-smart Haitian man who grew up gender-identified as female, a Brooklyn lesbian couple who met as undergraduates at Yale 25 years ago, and aNew York City politician who was a major force in passing New York State’s same-sex marriage bill”.

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We get to know these people as the movie moves. This is a film that is as important for the “straight” viewer as for “non-straights.” We become aware of the tension between generations in the LGBT community and we see how the term “queer” which we hated so much has become embraced by the younger members of our community. It has become a defining word for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans folk. Director Draper Shreeve puts forth his thesis that LGBT folk are much the same and are defined internally by their mutual oppressions instead of accepting the negative definitions by outsiders. We hear and see interviews that are sincere and powerful.

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There are surprises throughout the film and it is beautifully photographed. I understand that the people we see here were selected because Draper wanted “People who were truly interesting in themselves; that they had stories we had not heard before. But I also wanted to include as diverse a selection as possible across race, gender, age and class. I knew we could tell only so many stories, and could not represent everyone, but I wanted to catch some of the mix of queer American life in 2015.” We see the people here doing ordinary things and this shows us that gay people are just like everyone else. This is an absolutely fascinating film and if I had to settle on saying what the main point of the film is, I would have to say it how we live and how we have not only accepted ourselves but how we have embraced our sexuality and identity and empowered ourselves.

“FALL”— Damnation or Redemption

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“Fall”

Damnation or Rejection

Amos Lassen

Terrence Odette’s “Fall” is a dramatic look at the toll that morality places upon Father Sam (Michael Murphy) as he ministers to his small congregation in Niagara Falls. Fewer and fewer people attend services that seem to remind people as to how much the church is out of touch with the reality of the modern world.

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Father Sam is burdened with the morality and existentialism that comes with guiding the faith of so many believers (and would-be believers) and his many sleepless nights reveal to us (and to him) that he is a man grappling with many of the same questions of the afterlife as his parishioners. Reza, a gay man, accuses Father Sam of picking and choosing which lessons of the Bible to teach to his congregation.

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We learn of Father Sam’s sins early on when a letter addressed from Sault Ste. Marie offers a cryptic reminiscence of a night spent by the Father’s side. There is, in the letter, an allusion to indiscretion, but it contains no explicit charge other than that Father Sam shared a special bond with this younger male correspondent. The sins of the Father come indirectly come into question as he helps a couple, (Michael Luckett and Katie Boland) move towards the sacrament of marriage. He witnesses a lapse in the fidelity by one of the fiancés and, as he confronts the obvious love between the two and the damage that would be caused by the truth, he finds himself at his own moral crossroads.

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Michael Murphy gives a brilliant and exceptionally subtle performance as Father Sam. He plays the conflicted clergyman with a caring and beleaguered grace. We see that Father Sam doesn’t merely go through the motions as he prepares for each mass and provides guidance for his parishioners, we also sense the weariness and the anxiety that creeps into Murphy’s character giving us a man who is uncomfortable with his faith. This is probably because he knows he will have to pay for his sins when his time comes.

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Father Sam’s future into question with the weight he carries and the complexity of Father Sam’s questioning develops as he makes several trips up north. His character is put directly in the crosshairs only once when one of his visits leads him to confront Catherine (Suzanne Clement), the sister of the man with whom he allegedly had a past relationship. Catherine lays a charge on Father Sam that shatters him. However, as viewers, we wonder whether the priest is shaken by his grief, shock, or exposure. We question the Father’s past and see that his actions might have been innocent and he might not be guilty of criminal misconduct, but, rather, abandonment. We are asked if it is possible to escape sins or atone for them. We never know if he is redeemed or damned—it is our call.

“PLAY THE DEVIL”— At the Carnival in Trinidad

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“Play The Devil”

At the Carnival in Trinidad

Amos Lassen

During Trinidad’s Carnival Season we meet Gregory (Petrice Jones), a young black working-class eighteen-year-old. He was starring in a local play where he was noticed by James Young (Gareth Jenkins), an older affluent businessman.  James felt immediately attracted to Gregory and pursued him. On Carnival Monday as is expected in Trinidad, the young men cover their bodies in blue paint and dressed as devils and descend down into the valley, howling and drumming as they lose themselves in carnal dance.  That night a fateful confrontation erupts, changing their lives forever.

“Play the Devil” was produced, directed and written by Maria Govan. Gregory was just 18-years-old when he and James began their friendship. This is so much more than a simple plot here as the film looks into the psyche and why we consider what some people do to be wrong. On one level we see the film as a thriller that it is but it is also an exploration of class, religion and homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago.

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Gregory lives with his grandmother and older brother in the poor area in the hills outside of the city. He makes good grades and it is very likely that we will receive a scholarship to go to college away from home, placing him in prime position of a scholarship to study medicine outside of the country. When James takes an intense interest in him, the result threatens to ruin those chances and expose Gregory’s own secrets.

Gregory is very deep in the closet. At first we do not really understand what James sees in him but then we see the two men lying to friends and family and withdrawn is he that those terms wouldn’t feel complete when applied to him. At first, we’re not even sure he’s aware of what Jenkins’ James has on his mind. Soon, though, we see him lying to his friends and family about what is going on and see that Gregory is not nearly as naïve as we thought.

Gregory moves from outright rejecting James’ advances. After all the film is set in a place where homosexuality is still stigmatized. Set in the rural mountain village of Paramin, the film follows the relationship between student Gregory and businessman James Young. We learn that James has stayed in his marriage because of his daughter yet he flirts with Gregory and goes to see the play that he is every day. Eventually the two go to James’ beach out for a weekend away.

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The glamorously wealthy James has dutifully carried on the lucrative family business and remains in a loveless marriage for the sake of his daughter — or that’s the story he tells himself. He makes a pointedly flirtatious backstage visit to Gregory after the latter’s appearance in a play, and from there his interest in the young man quickly escalates, until they spend an eventful weekend alone together in his beach house. James encourages Gregory to face the truth of his identity and ignores Gregory’s request for distance and intrusively pushes himself into Gregory’s family life.

It is clear that  his conflicted feelings are not merely about repressed sexual desires. They also reflect his uncertainty about his the mores of his small-town mores and family expectations. James, however, has the financial means to give Gregory all that he desires and this is very tempting for a boy from a poor family. When he accepts a camera from James and gets busy snapping pictures, things began to change between the two but then the tension between the two main characters reaches a fever pitch during a Carnival dance that turns participants into ferocious blue devils and this is where you will have to see the movie to find out what happens.

“THE SETTLERS”— Israeli Settlements on the West Bank

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‘The Settlers’

Israeli Settlements on the West Bank

Amos Lassen

There is no doubt in my mind that Shimon Dotan’s documentary “The Settlers” will provoke strong reactions wherever it plays. The film traces the history of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and their growth through both individual action and the sometimes-tacit encouragement of Israeli politicians. Dotan doesn’t disguise his pessimistic perspective on one of the most fought-over areas in the world. He comes upon a range of rationales for living on contested land (as well as some surprisingly unguarded interview subjects).

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The film begins by asking Israelis who have chosen to live in the West Bank questions such as “Are you a settler?” and “What is a settler?” Quite naturally we do not have much agreement on labels and definitions. This questioning serves as a framing device of sorts and by the end, we have divergent answers on how far the boundaries of Israel should go.

The documentary uses archival footage and contemporary interviews with the settlers and with academics and we see the settler movement’s growth as a kind of feedback l of incremental protests, governmental indifference and political calculation. The rabbi Moshe Levinger, a controversial leader of the settlement movement, describes the first push into the West Bank almost as if it was an act of civil disobedience, saying that “only after we actually settle will we be taken seriously.” Sarah Nachshon, a settler had her son circumcised in the Cave of the Patriarchs but the child died in infancy and she pressed for his burial in a West Bank cemetery. The film seems to say that this act had the effect of ensuring that some Israeli military presence remained in the area.

 

While we do hear from Palestinian voices, “The Settlers” is largely focused on the settlers, whose rhetoric often undermines their own case. One settler openly identifies himself as a racist; another gives details of his participation in a violent plot. We see signs of internal dissent when one settler admonishes another when he questions the wisdom of exclusionary politics.

We also look at the roadblock that the settlements have posed to the peace process. We see Yitzhak Rabin speaking about the cost of for security per family, adding that those costs don’t provide security for Israel. Talia Sasson, who published a report commissioned under the administration of Ariel Sharon, explains that she discovered that state funds were quietly used to build West Bank outposts. An interesting aside is that the name Benjamin Netanyahu is ever said in the film.

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The film does not put labels and there no given categories for settlers. The settlements receive visitors who are evangelical Christians visiting the settlements from the United States and there are those that visit for no apparent reason other than to see. We meet an Israeli who has moved to the area to take advantage of the real estate prices. One settler who has grown up in the West Bank has built her home as a sort of tent or portable house so that it can be packed up easily. We see young groups of extremists and Partisans on both sides of the conflict will have plenty to argue with, as would be the case with almost any movie on this topic but what is unique here is that the film goes beyond what we usually see and gives us a real sense of what’s happening on the ground and this, in turn, provides a sense of urgency.

The documentary captures both the beauty of the West Bank and the complexity of the geopolitics that are tearing it apart. Dotan is wonderfully skilled as an interviewer who is able to present the settlers, an often-misunderstood segment of Israeli society, to a wide audience. However, we learn more about the dogma of left-wing Israelis than it does about settlers.

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According to this dogma, the settlers are to blame for pulling Israel into the occupation. Aside from Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin, Israeli politicians from both the right and the left are presented in the film as lacking agency and power to take on expansionist colonial practices not as a matter of policy but because they are forced to do so by radical Religious Zionists.

Levi Eshkol explains here that settlement expansion is not in violation of the fourth Geneva Accord because Israel has always used its civilian population as part of its military defense system and this suggests the possibility that Israeli politicians built settlements as a matter of policy. Similarly, Shimon Peres is depicted as caving into the Religious Zionists’ demands for settlement expansion.

There is no mention of Ehud Barak’s insistence on speeding up settlement expansion while participating in the Camp David talks.

Despite the fact that Netanyahu has been prime minister since 2009 and has continued settlement expansion throughout his tenure, he is totally omitted from the film. We see very shocking footage from the right-wing demonstration that took place on October 5, 1995, almost exactly a month before Rabin’s assassination, at which many demonstrators called aloud and explicitly for Rabin’s death. However, there is no mention that the demonstration was co-organized by the Likud.

The only present-day politician featured in the film is Naftali Bennett, leader of the settler-affiliated party Jewish Home. The lack of other contemporary politicians makes it seem like the Israeli government’s continued expansion of settlements in recent years is the result of the pressure placed by Religious Zionists on politicians like Bennett.

Most of those interviewed are settlers, others are part of the security establishment, a few are Palestinians whose land has been occupied by Israelis, and still others are members of various governmental or non-governmental organizations who speak about different aspects of the occupation. Almost all share their personal experiences, and some also provide their own commentary.

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Dotan neatly divides Israeli society into two groups: the radical religious settlers and everyone else. He sees that it is the radical settlers (some 20% of those living over the Green Line) who are dragging the rest of Israel into the conflict.

Because everything is attributed to a small group of religious zealots, left-wing dogma ignores the complexity of the contemporary Religious Zionist settler community and its pre-1967 origins. Dotan sees this as beginning in 1967, after the capture of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six Day War, with a group of settlers that held one fixed religious ideology. But ignoring the pre-1967 antecedents of the settler movement, the film, at times, is difficult to understand. Early in the film, we hear how the deceased Gush Emunim leader Hanan Porat wanted “to bring back” the children of Kfar Etzion to Kfar Etzion following the ’67 war. However, we never hear that the settlement-kibbutz of Kfar Etzion, located in the Etzion settlement bloc, was based on a community that had existed in the same location prior to the War of Independence and that was destroyed in May 1948. No mention is made of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (1865-1935), who was a very powerful figure in the history of Zionism who still has immeasurable influence over religious Zionists, even though he was dead before the state of Israel came into being.

Without understanding this power, it is difficult to understand the messianic fervor that gripped the Religious Zionist community after 1967.

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The ideological settlers that we see are represented through interviews and archival footage of men who played an active role in Gush Emunim (a settler movement formed after ‘67 by students of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook) who are described as “hilltop youth.” We get the impression that the entire Religious Zionist movement as it exists today descends in a straight line from this group, ignoring the evolution of the movement, and how the band of hilltop youth, for example, are held in contempt by many of the original Gush Emunim leaders. The reality is that the ideological settlers are much more diverse than the way they’re presented in the film.

By beginning the story of the settlers in ’67 we are to believe everything Israel was set off course with the occupation and settlement of the territories and therefore implying that a large territorial concession will swing Israel back on course. This is not what happened. Moving the settlers’ history to the aftermath of ’67 makes it easier to criticize them as a group that diverged from mainstream Zionism.

Dotan portrays the settlers as the Israeli left likes to see them; as a small group of fanatical Jews, at once entirely divorced from the rest of Israeli society and somehow capable of dragging everyone else into a deepening conflict. If Israeli society as a whole does not recognize its complicity in the occupation, it will never end.