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Sonia Nettnin Film Review: Wall

Film Review: Wall

By Sonia Nettnin

The construction of the wall not only restricts the Palestinians' daily movements, but it takes away the freedom of natural surroundings. The people feel like they live in a large prison (Photo courtesy of CPFF).

Director Simone Bitton’s “Wall” (Mur) documents the construction of Israel’s wall throughout the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, and how it affects the Israelis and the Palestinians who live around it.

Bitton interviews people, including founder and medical director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Organization, Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj. She gives people a space to share their thoughts about the life-changing physical and political obstruction.

The film won the Grand Prize at the 2004 Marseilles Documentary Film Festival, the Grand Prize for best film at the 2004 Pesaro Film Festival and it was part of the Directors Fortnight section of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

On the Israeli side, colorful murals of people and desert landscape cover the wall. On the Palestinian side, the wall is gray and surrounded by coils of barbed wire and electronic fences. In a ten-minute scene, the director shows how construction workers construct the wall, which stands 25-feet high. Every cement block has a metal u-block attached to it. A construction crane latches on to the metal u-block, then hoists each block into place. While the construction worker guides the suspended block for precise placement, the cement block dangles in the air.

During assembly of the cement blocks, the scenery of cityscape and landscape disappears into gray cement. The scene illustrates how the wall takes away the freedom of image. It takes away the human enjoyment of natural surroundings. Now, people look at a wall.

A person asks the director: “Are you filming the wall? It’s a prison! What’s the difference?”

In most areas, the wall contains watchtowers where Israeli soldiers stand guard. Any person who walks within 50 meters of the wall’s system risks their life. Alongside the wall are electronic fences, radars, cables, sensors, as well as barbed wire. Bitton interviews Director-General AmosYaron of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

When asked why Israel constructs the wall, he explains: “It is an effective way to significantly reduce the penetration capabilities of Palestinians who come to commit terrorist acts in urban areas…” because without the wall there was theft of Israeli cars, goods and agricultural equipment. However, land confiscation is theft and the construction causes damage to Palestinians’ personal property. Land annexation beyond the 1967 Green Line – land in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – is illegal.

How much does the wall cost?

According to Yaron, one kilometer of wall costs $2 million U.S. dollars or $10 million shekels. He estimates the construction will cost $5 billion shekels, which equates to one billion U.S. dollars and 500 kilometers of wall. Since the U.S. financially supports Israel, it will cost U.S. taxpayers one billion U.S. dollars.

Yaron made no mention of the economic and financial cost of the wall to Palestinians, who receive no compensation for their land or the damage to their personal property.

Landscape scenes show how the wall’s construction changes the topography of the land. Every day hundreds of heavy machines move millions of cubic meters of soil. In one area a gaping hole replaces what once was a hill. From an environmentalist perspective, this geographic fragmentation destroys the region’s ecology.

Even Yaron admits that the artificial invention damages the nature of the land based on the findings of Israel’s Nature Resources Authority (now a part of Israel’s Nature and National Parks Protection since 1998).

For instance, Israel truncates a piece of land for an Israeli settlement. Any artificial creation for that settlement does not guarantee the houses are safe structurally. Moreover, the wall creates three, noncontiguous cantons of land for the Palestinians, which makes a Palestinian state impossible. The wall strangulates economic development for the Palestinians, since they cannot use the main roads to go to work and to school. If a farmer’s land is on the other side of the wall, then he needs a permit to reach it. If Israel does not grant him a permit, then they take away the farmer’s land. Hence, the wall causes human rights violations, as well as economic and political ramifications.

For several thousands of years, the land lived without this obstruction. Now that several hundred kilometers of concrete wall exists, Mother Nature will respond to it.

The film made me think about human exposure to electricity. Over time, what happens to peoples’ body organs and brain waves when exposed to electromagnetic waves within a one-mile radius of the electronic surveillance system? How about their children? Israel has a Radiation Abatement Division in the Ministry of the Environment. One of the organization’s responsibilities is the “supervision of radiation from power lines, UV radiation and environmental lasers.” Have they investigated the effects of the wall’s electronic surveillance system on people? The wall has human and environmental consequences.

With regards to social interaction, one Israeli man, Muli, states that the wall eliminated the possibility for Israelis and Palestinians to be neighbors. Thus, the wall causes physical and psychological barriers for the people.

Another Israeli man believes the Israelis’ love for the land is so mad and possessive that he thinks “the Jews lost their minds.” The wall eradicates integration.

She interviews Dr. al-Sarraj.

“Gaza has become a big prison surrounded by wire and electronic fences,” he says. Through his work he found that 24 per cent of Gaza’s youths under the age of 18 wish to die in suicide operations. The wall is a wall of racism inflicted on the people and it affects them psychologically.

Palestinians of all ages climb over the wall. They exercise amazing feats, especially when they have children with them. If Israelis climbed and crawled the way Palestinians do every day, then there would be international outrage.

Yaron believes land on both sides of the wall belongs to Israel. How can the state own land it did not purchase? If there was no real estate transaction - no contract or transfer of property deed - then any land annexation is theft of personal property.

Bitton illustrates the physical, mental, emotional, social, economical, and environmental effects of the wall.


Directed by: Simone Bitton
Produced by: T. Lenouvel
Country of production: France/Israel
Year: 2004
Language: In Arabic and Hebrew, with English subtitles
Minutes: 1:38
Production Company: Arna Productions


Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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