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The Law in These Parts: Film Review

Law in These Parts Still - H 2012
Shark De Mayo

The Bottom Line

This thoughtful documentary about Israeli military justice in the occupied territories is both provocative and self-indulgent.

Director:

Ra'anan Alexandrowicz

Producer:

Liran Atzmor

Opens:

Nov. 14 (Cinema Guild)

Israeli filmmaker Ra'anana Alexandrowicz's documentary examines the laws imposed on Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Examining the tortured legal Israeli policies directed towards Palestinians in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank since the 1967 War, The Law in These Parts is both damning and self-questioning. Ra’anan Alexandroricz’s documentary uses a simple framework—a starkly photographed series of interviews with nine retired judges and lawyers instrumental in administering the often arbitrary laws—to deliver a provocative examination of the nature of justice. The film, winner of the Best Documentary Award at the Sundance Film Festival, is currently receiving its U.S. theatrical premiere at NYC’s Film Forum.

Divided into chapters, the film features each of its subjects sitting at a desk on a raised platform being asked tough questions by the filmmaker, with historically appropriately archival footage projected on a screen behind them. The results are surprisingly galvanizing, as the interviewees, alternately defiant and self-doubting, attempt to explain the reasoning behind their decisions.

Alexandrowicz’s position becomes quite clear as he questions the morality of imposing a distinct set of laws—imposed by the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF--on a civilian population whose rights differ from those of ordinary Israeli citizens. Individual cases are discussed at length, such as the imprisonment of an Arab woman for the crime of merely giving food to a suspected terrorist. Such thorny issues are raised as to whether captured rebel fighters should be classified as POWs or civilians, and whether torture is justifiable under extreme circumstances.

Intended as temporary fixes, the increasingly draconian laws have eventually settled into accepted practice over the decades, adding fuel to the fire of the already combustible region.

At times the legalese banter proves tedious and convoluted. And although the filmmaker, to his credit, takes pains to emphasize that his own cinematic methodology is subject to question, he takes the concept too far, adding constant self-conscious, meta-theatrical flourishes acknowledging the subjectivity of his editing process. The already obvious point is hammered home repeatedly in a belabored fashion that smacks more of self-indulgence than honest self-questioning.

Director/screenwriter: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz.

Producer: Liran Atzmor.

Executive producers: Laura Poitras, Martin Hagemann.

Director of photography: Shark De Mayo.

Editor: Neta Dvorkis.

Not rated, 101 min.