This superb and very timely docu joins a busload of Palestinians, of all ages and backgrounds, as they take a rare trip through modern (if pre-intifada) Israel. The roughly shot but smoothly finished “Inner Tour” is sure to stop at many pubcasting berths, while traveling on to fests of all kinds.
On the way, the passengers squabble, sunbathe, do some soul-searching, and generally behave like tourists everywhere. The stakes here are much higher than on most bus trips, of course — the only way some Palestinians could legally visit Israel is with a one-time tourist permit — and while getting quite attached to the blind businessman, thoughtful schoolteacher, elderly grandmother, et al, viewers come to see them as they see themselves. They are displaced aboriginals struggling to roll with the punches life has landed on them, with Israelis — seen dishing out self-mythologizing propaganda at a kibbutz museum or openly insulting the Arabs a beach resort — caught up in their own dreams of manifest destiny.
The reality is even more complicated, naturally, but they seem to know that too, and some of their discussions are quietly harrowing and self-critical. The passengers’ uneasy relationship with their Jewish bus driver provides some fascinating ambiguity, but most emotionally compelling seg is a face-off between two youngish Palestinian women who lost their husbands in the previous uprising.
In the midst of the suburban Haifa fairground they’re visiting at night, one confesses that, if they somehow encountered the soldier who shot her husband, she and her brood “would eat the man alive.” The other remonstrates that this same crowd could just as likely contain the mother of a soldier her own husband killed — and asks what should be done about that. The first woman falls silent.
It’s precisely that kind of confrontation, and irresolution, that keeps the Middle East in crisis, but the exchange, like the whole pic, also reminds that human beings are capable of sustaining complicated thoughts and feelings while nursing grudges and still moving forward.