“We know that the camera can lie. It may indeed show what’s in front of it, but whoever points it determines what will be seen and from what angle. The old-new hegemonies that hold us hostage know this very well when they build separation barriers, virtual or real, blocking what they think we should not see. And what they want to block us from seeing is this: the walls they build aren’t meant for defense; they are prison walls, intended to separate people where bridges are needed.
“There remain the arts, but the hegemonies also control the means of revitalization that belong to the arts. They pressure the artists to use their skills but not their visions, and they addict the audience to this drug that perpetuates their power. The galleries, which are supposed to present works of art, become prisons for immuring their contents. The artists’ sole recourse is to find the cracks and fissures through which to break the addictive ban – to quit the gallery, as the artist in Breaking Walls says, and lead art to reality. When he builds a labor union he uses the experience of reality to do what art is meant to do: build bridges.
“When an artist takes concrete reality and transforms it into a symbol, he breaks through the barrier of servitude. When he goes to a wall and paints a wall on it, he neutralizes the existing necessity and creates within that wall a channel of communication quite contrary to the intentions of the powers that be. When the camera points at a roadblock, it unblocks it. The task of the arts at this time, therefore, is to find channels for connecting human beings – and thus break the wall of enslaving obduracy erected by those who think that we live to accomplish and serve their needs, their desires, even their dreams, while confiscating our own lives and our dreams. The film we have seen here is another layer in this important task, and for this its makers deserve to be congratulated.”
The members of Video 48 were also invited to take part in a panel discussion on video activism at the Israeli film festival, Doc-Aviv. Rona Segal moderated. The other panel members were Yoav Shamir, director of Makhsomim (Checkpoints) and French director Thomas Balmès. (Balmès directed Made in China, following Nokia’s new ethics consultant on a visit to the company’s plant there.) Video 48 was represented by Jonathan Ben Efrat, director of Breaking Walls. His words aroused a heated discussion. Here is an excerpt:
“In Video 48, as doco-activists, we do take sides, joining a movement which seeks to change an oppressive reality. We seek to create a new political and cultural discussion within the movement itself. For example, the film Breaking Walls shown to artists, brings into focus the issue of their relationship to the wider social reality.
“Because of the specific conditions of working in Israel, we have chosen to focus on Arab society and its problems, whether of land confiscation, unemployment, or the suppression of women.
“Some people will call doco-activism unbalanced propaganda. But it depends on who you ask. For the workers who took part in Breaking Walls, what the film shows is reality. It is the reality of a struggle that goes on from day to day, pursuing us beyond the bounds of the camera lens.”
These words occasioned debate. The other two members of the panel held that the documentary filmmaker has a responsibility to remain neutral, to examine the situation from the side, and not to take an active role in the attempt to change reality by his manner of documenting it.