Israeli documentary wins prize at Sundance festival

'The Law in These Parts' examines IDF court system in W. Bank; filmmaker rejects claims that film damages Israel's image.

'The Law in These Parts' film poster 311  (photo credit: Courtesy)
'The Law in These Parts' film poster 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An Israeli film examining the military legal system that Israel established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the 1967 Six Day War won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Saturday.
The Law in These Parts, a documentary film made by Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, was subject to criticism in Israel for its perceived negative portrayal of the country. The film had previously won top documentary honors last July at the Jerusalem Film Festival. The Sundance Film Festival is considered the top international festival for independent film.
The Law in These Parts consists almost entirely of interviews with the Israelis, now quite old, who had established the legal system in the Palestinian territories and run it over the years.
Some of the revelations are shocking. One judge acknowledges that “of course” he knew about torture, contradicting the findings of various Israeli investigative commissions. Alexandrowicz takes us inside the meetings where they developed the legal justifications for controversial practices such as indefinite detentions and land confiscation for settlements.
The Law in These Parts is calm and methodical, its critical perspective unfolding in a slow, patient manner. The film is evenhanded in that it gives Israel full credit for its painstaking efforts to create a consistent set of rules in the areas it conquered in the ’67 war. But the film also suggests that Israel’s legal system, while it may have tempered some of the worst abuses of military occupation, also legitimized many others.
Alexandrowicz, whose previous works include The Inner Tour and James’ Journey to Jerusalem, rejected claims that the film does damage to Israel's image in the world.
"It's impossible to ignore the dirty laundry," Alexandrowicz said Sunday in an interview with Army Radio, claiming that the American films screened at the festival were much more critical of US policies, but are not subject to the same kind of scrutiny at home that Israeli films must face.
"Among the American films, only two did not deal with the situation in the US in a critical manner - and they do so much more harshly than Israeli films do, but I have not seen the American crowd complain about any film," he stated.
Another joint Palestinian-Israeli production, 5 Broken Cameras, won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for best direction in adocumentary for filmmakers Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi.
The film is a chronicle of Burnat's life in his Palestinian village of Bil’in from 2005 to 2010.
JTA contributed to this report.