In July, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival presented a special programme titled “Close Up on Nurit Kedar” and screened three of her documentaries: “Borders” (2000), which takes a personal look at the political, social, and geographic boundaries and restrictions faced by the people living along the Israeli border; “Lebanon Dream”, the intimate story of a Lebanese businessman who profited from importing goods across the Israeli border during Israel’s 18-year occupation of Lebanon and what happened to him when the Israeli army withdrew; and “Wasted” (2007), an unflinching glimpse into the life of Israeli soldiers who recall their experience at Beaufort Post in southern Lebanon during the Israel’s withdrawal from that country in May 2000. In between the interviews of “Wasted” are brief yet startling scenes choreographed by Ohad Naharin that show male dancers moving in ways that echo the words and emotions expressed by the soldiers.
During the interview, Kedar also discussed her 2004 documentary “One Shot,” which she says was the first time anyone had received permission to film the snipers of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Most of the footage was shot by the snipers who had small cameras attached to their helmet or knee. “People in Israel really yelled at me after the screening of “One Shot” and after the screening of “Wasted,” says Kedar. “It was terrible. They really attacked me, saying ‘What do you want us to do? We have to take care of ourselves. The army is doing what it has to do.”
And Kedar is doing what she feels she must do. “I criticize society,” states Kedar. “I know that I always tell this story that makes you uneasy in your chair. That’s what motivates me. I want you to feel uneasy.”
DOX: Wasted was based on Israeli author Ron Lesham’s novel “If There Is a Heaven” about Israeli soldiers during the occupation of southern Lebanon. How did you end up making this documentary?
NK: I read the novel and I knew that a feature film, “Beaufort”, was being made from the book. The feature film is about being trapped in this mountain and the bombing and the killing. I called the producer of the feature film, David Mandil, who I knew, and told him that if he was going to do any documentary, he would have to call me because I did a film on Lebanon. I told him there was no way he was going to do a documentary without me.
Three weeks later, they called me. I was told that Ron Leshem and Joseph Cedar, the director of “Beaufort”, asked for me because they really loved “Lebanon Dream” and they thought that I was the only one who could make the documentary. They didn’t want to make a behind-the-scenes film. They wanted a pure documentary. When I came to the meeting, they asked me for a script but I didn’t have enough time to write one because I hadn’t done the research yet. I told them I wanted to make something like the television series made by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, “Band of Brothers”. I wanted to make the real story and shoot it in the same location as the feature.
They brought in a researcher who searched all over Israel and found 58 soldiers and out of the 58, I took 28 and brought them to the feature film location, which was on one of the biggest mountains in the north of Israel and looks like Beaufort Post. They had these long underground metal tunnels where they lived. They got the materials from the army because the army still uses them up in the north. When I brought the people there, it was February and it was very cold. They came in, they saw the structure that was built for the film and they were sure that they were back at the post. You could see the view of Lebanon from this mountain. It was like a tunnel of time. I interviewed each one for three or four hours, eleven of the interviews are in the film.
DOX: The novel was based on the true stories of the soldiers?
NK: In the novel, he didn’t use the real names. I brought the real ones. The feature film doesn’t get inside those soldiers; it’s only the documentary that really tells how the soldiers feel. When I put them inside this tunnel, they were sure that they were back there. And that’s how everything would come out. I didn’t know that it would happen like that. I just started with one question: “If I say the name ‘Lebanon’, what are the smells? Give me the smells.”
DOX: How did you feel when you interviewed the snipers for One Shot?
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