Additional Venice Film Festival reviews

Venice Film Festival, Horizon

Audiences who were impressed with the frank soul-searching of Ari Folman's animated "Waltz With Bashir," and its depiction of Israeli soldiers at war in Lebanon, will find an echoing note in "Z32," which director Avi Mograbi calls a "musical documentary tragedy." Screened in Venice Horizons, this deliberately messy, imperfect doc has gathered fans and should become a popular fest item, though commercial life will be arduous.

Vocal political filmmaker Mograbi already tangled with the Israeli military in "Avenge But One of My Two Eyes." Here he focuses on interviewing a young man who was a member of an elite army unit sent on a revenge mission with orders to kill Palestinian policemen in retaliation for the killing of Israelis. The former soldier understandably demands not to have his face shown on camera, and this presents a problem: how can he wear a stocking cap or hood for an entire feature film? Mograbi experiments with various solutions until he settles on a computer-generated digital mask that alters the facial features of the soldier and his girlfriend, while they discuss what happened that fatal night on the West Bank.

Alternately boring and riveting, silly and disturbing, "Z32" is not just about recounting a war crime. It begs viewers to get involved in its moral questions and to struggle, along with the young soldier, with their own guilty consciences and need to find forgiveness. Mograbi himself appears on screen, singing his doubts ("Am I harboring a murderer in my film?") to a Brechtian score orchestrated by Noam Enbar.

The other key character is the soldier's liberal, articulate girlfriend. A pacifist, she is clearly puzzled and repulsed by what the he did; when he asks her if she considers him a murderer, she has no answer. The masked faces of this strange couple give them a theatrical air, as though there could be anybody hiding behind the mask.

Production company: Les Films d'Ici. Director: Avi Mograbi.
Screenwriters: Avi Mograbi, Noam Enbar. Producer: Serge Lalou. Director of photography: Philippe Bellaiche. Music: Noam Enbar. Editor: Avi Mograbi. Sales Agent: Doc&Film International, Paris. 81 minutes.