Wounds That Never Heal
Palestinian director Raed Andoni uses his own personal experiences in this documentary that is a direct socio-political account of the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Film has the ability to change the darkest and most traumatic experiences into edifying and inspiring works of art and “Ghost Hunting” is one such film. It is a hybrid between documentary, fiction and experimentation with which its director tries to exorcise the demons that have haunted him since his imprisonment in a detention center in Israel.
Andoni recreates the prison in what looks like a garage or hangar and we see the torture, recreated with such rawness that it is impossible to know to what extent these men are simply acting. We are forced to face a terrible and cruel reality head on and without any filters, one in which the word humanity loses all meaning. Men become beasts whose only reason for being is survival. The simulation of the horror is so palpable that at times we wonder where the border between fiction and reality really is. We can only wonder about the psychological state of mind of the victims of torture years after being subjected to torture. The insanity that we see is interspersed with beautiful animated sequences that give a quiet lyricism to the film.
What we see is the re-enactment of the experience of torture in prison, acted out by ex-prisoners who have personally lived through such experiences. We are in Palestine and the torture takes place in Israeli prisons. Andoni chose to intertwine the “making-of” of a re-enactment film on torture in prison with the re-enactment film itself. We quickly understand that a sharp distinction between the “making-of” of a film and the film itself is simply impossible to be drawn. One of the central experiences for the viewer is the slow vanishing of the distance between these two facets. We clearly feel that the emotions, the pain, and the violence that the tortured feel. Several violent scenes occur, which are not only performed for the film but some of which come out spontaneously.
The re-enactment becomes almost a continuation of the very recent experiences, expressing the necessity of making these experiences visible or the fear of forgetting experiences that cannot be forgotten anyway. The ex-prisoners participating in “Ghost Hunting” are not just witnesses insofar as we see them in the process of becoming witnesses of their own experiences. They are “performers” of a re-enactment that simply becomes an enactment; a new direct experience of the prison and of the torture. Therefore, we are the actual witnesses.
This is a film enactment, in which fictional intentions are constantly turning into a documentation of reality. This is a film that reflects on the facts of filmmaking, and this self-reflective aspect of the film and we see this in Read Andoni’s constantly interrogating (torturing) himself throughout the entire film. It is during the end credits we learn that the film is dedicated to Abdullah Moubarak, one of the participants in the project, who returned to prison shortly after the shooting and this becomes not only a film about memories from the past, but a cry in the present as well as a look to future.