According to Ri Folman, the director who received an Oscar nomination for his films Waltz With Bashir and Where Is Anne Frank, the UK’s reaction to the Israel-Hamas conflict is based on “hypocrisy” and lack of knowledge.
“I believe there is a significant amount of hypocrisy,” stated Folman, a resident of Tel Aviv who is currently documenting the accounts of family members of Jews who have been captured by Hamas. “It is impossible to be knowledgeable about the situation in Gaza and not feel empathy for both sides.”
According to him, in the western world, there is a lack of understanding about Hamas being a fundamentalist organization. They are not fighting for freedom, but instead are brutal monsters who have killed infants and beheaded people. They also reportedly committed sexual assault at a party, but this information is not being acknowledged.
The director, who is a strong advocate of Liverpool football club, expressed his dismay while watching the 21st October game against Everton. He noticed that while support for Palestine was allowed, support for Israel was not.
I am a proud member of a tight-knit community of fans who support Liverpool football team. We often gather to watch matches and have a Facebook group to stay connected. During the Merseyside derby at Anfield, one of our group members brought a sign to honor four fellow Reds who lost their lives the previous week. Unfortunately, the sign was not allowed in by the event staff, despite the absence of any controversial flags or symbols. However, Palestinian flags were permitted.
When questioned about the taking down of several Hamas hostage posters in London, Folman responded by stating that they were aware of the current situation in Europe and other parts of the world, particularly in the UK and prestigious American universities. They are also familiar with the protests against Israel.
Five days after approximately 240 individuals, including men, women, and children, were abducted from their homes, Folman carried out his initial interview with family members of the Israeli hostages. To date, four hostages have been freed.
During the initial week, he stated that those who were interviewed had no confirmation about the whereabouts or status of their loved ones – whether they were kidnapped, deceased, or missing.
At times, Folman and his team would inform relatives that the bodies of their loved ones had been identified while they were speaking.
According to the director, the project #BringThemHomeNow, in collaboration with Jasmine Kainy, Eliran Peled, and Smadar Zamir, has recorded around 70 individuals.
“The number of interviews will increase as many families are eager to share their stories and raise awareness. Additionally, discussing these events may serve as a healing process for them. It’s important to remember that the government completely neglected them during the initial week, leaving them in a state of chaos with no one to turn to.”
Chaim Peri, a peace activist who is 79 years old, was taken hostage. He is a friend of Folman and his son, Lior, has served as a gaffer on the director’s previous films.
For the past three decades, this individual has been stationed at the checkpoint, assisting Palestinian children who are suffering from cancer. He transports them to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment and then brings them back to Gaza.
Folman stated that working on the project brought back memories of his mother, Wanda, who is currently 101 years old. When she was 17 years old, Wanda was sent to Auschwitz with her new husband and younger sister in 1944.
Folman’s parents were not together, however Wanda managed to protect her sister until the day she came home from work and saw Nazi doctor Josef Mengele and his assistant. “They took her sister. She always says: ‘If I had arrived five minutes earlier…'”
The first time I experienced the situation in real life was during my interviews with individuals who shared that their family members were shot and one of them was taken.
The director thinks that grassroots efforts like the #BringThemHomeNow movement gained momentum rapidly due to the existing protests against Benjamin Netanyahu’s presidency.
“We possess numerous WhatsApp groups focused on protests. Within an hour, these groups transformed into rescue teams.”
According to Forman, Netanyahu is unlikely to remain in office. The public in Israel is extremely angry with the government and their disregard for civilians. If a ceasefire is reached, it is likely that the government will be ousted.
The director anticipates that the Israeli hostages will be freed in return for 5,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. However, they are puzzled as to why it is taking so much time to arrange this deal.
In the 2008 animated docudrama “Waltz With Bashir,” Folman delved into Israel’s involvement in the 1982 Lebanon war and the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
In his 2021 movie about Anne Frank, the filmmaker explores the impact of the Holocaust on people’s memories. However, Folman points out that there is a significant distinction between his film and other Oscar-nominated ones that were made years after the events they depict. He explains that when conducting interviews with individuals who have experienced recent traumatic events, such as a mother whose daughter was recently kidnapped, the filmmaker is fully immersed in the drama and can observe the unique qualities of each interviewee. Some people, despite their optimism, are able to find hope in these situations, while others struggle to do so.
According to him, Tel Aviv is currently a deserted city with constant sirens and empty streets. The city’s functioning has come to a halt and the emotional impact on the people is significant, leading to a prevailing sense of sadness and hopelessness.
The director, who was only 10 years old during the Yom Kippur war in 1973, believes that the present conflict is on a much larger scale as it affects not just soldiers, but also civilians. The aftermath of this conflict will likely require years to heal.
“I maintain my belief that a solution will emerge. Throughout my lifetime, I have had a sense that following a major disaster, a new order would arise in the Middle East. It is unsustainable to continue living in this manner.”