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Behind Enemy Lines

Israeli documentarian Dov Gil-Har follows his 2001 "Sleeping With the Enemy" -- which concerned a peace mission bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in Japan --with the sobering "Behind Enemy Lines." Four years, one Intifada, and countless deaths later, Gil-Har reunites two members of that group, Israeli police officer Benny Herness and Palestinian journalist Adnan Joulani.

Israeli documentarian Dov Gil-Har follows his 2001 “Sleeping With the Enemy” — which concerned a peace mission bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in Japan –with the sobering “Behind Enemy Lines.” Four years, one Intifada, and countless deaths later, Gil-Har reunites two members of that group, Israeli police officer Benny Herness and Palestinian journalist Adnan Joulani. Embarking on a four-day journey, each man chooses destinations to illustrate his cause. Unsurprisingly, pic winds up documenting its own humanistic stalemate. Well traveled on fest circuit, hour-plus pic seems headed for cable, unless a double-bill with “Sleeping” should spark limited release.

Gil-Har introduces his two protagonists at work. Benny is seen training special forces to infiltrate compounds and combat Palestinian terrorists. At a practice enactment of the eviction of Israeli settlers, Benny himself assumes the role of an angry pious settler (not too much of a stretch, since Benny himself lives in a West Bank settlement, a newly dubbed “suburb” of Jerusalem).

Adnan, meanwhile, accompanies and translates for a television journalist interviewing the widow of a suicide bomber on the anniversary of their nuptials. Adnan wryly remarks that he shares the same wedding day. He gives the reporter a tour of the boarded-up, graffiti- and Star of David-covered remnants of the erstwhile bustling central market of Hebron, a major Palestinian wholesale distribution hub shut down by the army and commandeered for yet another Israeli housing site.

Once Benny and Adnan embark on their joint odyssey, pic visits a seemingly unending itinerary of warring holy grounds, and scarred and barbed-wired battle zones. Benny stops at the Moment Cafe, scene of a devastating suicide-bomb attack, while Adnan stops at the roadside eatery where his cousin was shot by a passing settler. Benny escorts Adnan to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, while Adnan leads Benny through a rock-poised gauntlet in the Jenin refugee camp to a huge barren circle carved by bulldozers where rows of Palestinian houses once stood.

Not to be left out, the director ushers both to the intersection where another of Adnan’s cousins opened fire on Israeli passersby, and dramatically produces the very policeman who finally gunned his cousin down (Adnan shakes his hand, unfazed).

Throughout the heated verbal exchanges between the two enemy friends, neither comes even remotely closer to understanding the other’s point of view. Pic’s coda, an idyllic sunset on a Tel Aviv beach, finds the relaxed duo wistfully dreaming of peace in suitably cynical terms.

Behind Enemy Lines

Israel

Production: A Telad-Channel 2/Orf 3Sat/ZDF 3Sat/Cenephil production. Produced by Bruria Naim, Dov Gil-Har. Directed by Dov Gil-Har.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Gadi Afriat; editor, Yaron Lev; music, Avi Lebovich. Reviewed on cassette at New York Jewish Film Festival, Jan. 21, 2005. Running time: 64 MIN. (English, Hebrew, Arabic dialogue)

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