The Law in These Parts, directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, is one of the most informative and original documentaries about the Israeli Palestinian conflict that seen in recent years, writes Ben Unwin.
“This is not a film about a soldier at a checkpoint, something which stands very far from most peoples reality,” Alexandrowicz said in a Q&A earlier today. “The white collar element of the film is actually something that most of us can identify with.”
In 1967 when Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza, they understood that to apply Israeli law in the occupied territories would be tantamount to granting the Palestinian people citizenship. As a result almost overnight a million Palestinians suddenly found themselves under a completely new and unknown legal system. Alexandrowicz’s film reveals the little known stories of the men who drew up these new laws and then implemented them upon an occupied people over a forty-year period.
The film opens with Alexandrowicz talking about what a documentary is, while at the same time stagehands move a single desk into the centre of a studio. As the central protagonists are revealed - being interviewed uncomfortably in front of green screen - it becomes apparent that this director is not taking us on a conventional journey. Alexandrowicz shows us just one side of this story but in doing so provides us more insight into the conflict than a thousand supposedly ‘even handed’ documentaries.
Taking us from the occupation in ’67, through to the Intifada and into the present day, his skill is to deftly weave an involving and illuminating story from incredibly complex material.
“Order and justice don’t always go hand In hand”
One of the judges reveals that over time the use of these new laws in the occupied territories are there “not to provide a solution, but because the alternative is much worse.” As the film intertwines interviews, archive and narration from Alexandrowicz, what becomes apparent is that these are not evil or necessarily vindictive people. In fact, they are everyday people working within a legal system that has become more and more removed from any notion of justice. “At what point,” ponders Alexandrowicz, “does my personal security rely on the violation of the security of others?”
This is a film that explains the use of words in law to convey or corrupt meaning, leading to some of the interviewees revealing some very candid and shocking information about what they knew was going on behind closed doors. The Law in These Parts is a fascinating and complex film that demands concentration from the viewer but will ultimately rewards those who do.