Socialist Worker

The film Private shows the humiliation of the Palestinians

Jinan Coulter looks at Private, a new film, that explores the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians,

Issue No. 1951

The story of a Palestinian family enduring the Israeli occupation of their home forms the basis of the film Private

The story of a Palestinian family enduring the Israeli occupation of their home forms the basis of the film Private


Saverio Costanzo's first feature film tells the story of a middle class Palestinian family whose home is taken over by the Israeli army.

Set almost entirely within the home, Private captures the arbitrary way in which innocent people suddenly become victims of Israeli aggression.

The film is just one of many significant works that have recently come out about Palestine, most notably the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie.

While the situation in Palestine is being left out of the headlines, it seems that many artists are forcing it back on to the agenda.

The film tries to examine a number of complex issues. It begins by introducing us to the normal routine of a family.

We watch them throughout the day as they eat a meal together and argue over who gets the bathroom in the morning.

We develop a picture of the relationships between these people. It is in this private setting that we then witness their humiliation and fear, with the arrival of Israeli soldiers into their home.

They are imprisoned in their living room and ordered not to go upstairs into what is now Israeli territory. They are also put under curfew and must ask permission to leave their living room.

There is a poignant scene where the youngest daughter needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. This sparks an argument between the parents about whether to try and leave the room — all the while urging the girl to hold it in!

Costanzo captures a real sense of the impotence that people living under occupation feel and the impact that this has on different people. As the situation gets worse, the divisions grow within the family.

There are arguments over whether to leave the country and over how to resist the injustice that they face. It is in this context that the question of violence is raised.

As the situation gets worse, one of the older boys begins to have thoughts of becoming a sucicide bomber. He finds a grenade left behind by the soldiers and sets up a booby trap for them in his father’s outdoor tent.

He wakes up to a flickering television that flashes images of carnage at the scene of a suicide bombing followed by the image of himself as a fighter.

While questioning the use of violence by Palestinians resisting the occupation, the film doesn’t give a sense of the systematic and widespread brutality that the Israeli army is notorious for.

The most brutal instance of Israeli violence in the film is portrayed as extreme and even unpopular among the other soldiers.

Ofer, the commander of the Israeli army unit, puts a gun to the father’s head while his terrified family watch.

The other soldiers protest and one even tries to intervene. Costanzo is trying to reveal the dissent that exists in Israeli society, even among serving soldiers. In another scene, one of the daughters watches the soldiers through the door as they watch football and crack jokes.

When confronted by their disapproving commanding officer, one of the soldiers says he doesn’t know why they’re even there.

As in any situation where young and inexperienced people are conscripted into military duty, you will find a layer who question their actions.

There are a growing number of Israelis who are refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories today.

The weakness of the film, however, is that it leaves room for the interpretation that violence by Israelis is only carried out by extremists in the army.

Private tries to show the desperate circumstances under which Palestinians would be forced to use violence against their oppressors.

But it seems more critical of this than of the system that continues to oppress and humiliate millions of Palestinians every day.

Private is released on 13 May


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Sat 14 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1951
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