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The Dive – War is a culture

FIPRESCI Warsaw Critics Project 2018 2018-10-24

Israeli Yona Rozenkier’s semi-autobiographical first feature is a take on culture of violence, militarism, and masculinity - not necessarily limited to the director’s home country. Having debuted in Locarno, The Dive follows three brothers reunited for their father’s funeral and their different approach to military service in the early days of the 2006 Lebanon War. A family drama borrowing from the western genre, the film never really comments on the military actions of Israel, but rather keeps the focus on the soldiers’ perspective, dealing with topics of PTSD, and the cultural impact of the conflict.

The Dive is set in a nearly empty kibbutz, with only a couple of families left, and around the vast deserted lands nearby. Here arrives a solitary hero with a nebulous past, Yoav, to bury the father who always found him a disappointment. Having lost touch with his family for years, he is reunited with Itai (played by the director himself), a rather bitter but proud brother, and Avishai, the youngest sibling about to be shipped off to war after only a few days of training. The cleverly structured script gradually adds layers to the conflict between Yoav and Itai, but it seems to always circle back and return to the issue of fighting for one’s country. Itai finds it a duty, while Yoav doesn’t see any value in it anymore. We never really learn what happened to Yoav during his previous deployment, but his anxiety attacks are telling, as are his attempts to persuade the youngest, scared brother not to return to his unit.

The film shows us how violence and militarism are embedded in our culture. More often than not, issues between the brothers turn into some form of aggression, like in the scene set in the old ruins of a building where Itai ‘kills’ Yoav with a paintball gun, or during their war-like hunting expeditions on the trail of a wild animal. The film suggests we are so used to various forms of aggression in our culture – even in ‘innocent’ games – that we can’t see how they are connected to those horrors of war that we are always quick to condemn. In the most explicit (and somewhat in-your-face) condemnation of (pop)culture, Yoav looks at a poster of Clint Eastwood in ‘western hero’ mode before concluding, “This is all your fault.”

Such a stand makes the film rather universal – it focuses on a soldier who is pushed into the service (because it’s patriotic, or manly, or just right) and on a society in which this common occurrence is deeply ingrained. At the same time, the Israeli setting, with its own specific history of military service, can’t be ignored, though the film never tackles the merits of the ongoing Lebanese War. It rather shows how military service and the constant threat of war influence relations within the family and in day-to-day life. Yoav had to run away from his family and from the military culture it represents, refusing to forgive his father even after his death. And apart from its bursts of violence, the film also shows us inconspicuous details about living as part of such a culture: characters carrying weapons, often advanced automatic ones, way too often; or being so used to a state of war that they can only resort to making cynical jokes about it.

Far from being a pacifist pamphlet, The Dive dissects a culture that takes violence as the norm. And with Yoav abandoning his family even in times of need, it questions his moral compass while refraining from portraying him as a flawless hero. This is another moment that suggests the complexity of the problem and the impossibility of easy answers – which the film never provides.

FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project

Lemana Filandra2Lemana Filandra is a writer and editor at "Klifhenger" (www.klifhenger.com), a site dedicated to movie analyses in Bosnian and English. She has been working as a freelance writer, a researcher, and a translator for the last three years. Currently, She is working on a PhD thesis in philosophy, focused on intersectional feminism and political implications of the concept of body. In the past she had different professional engagements at Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the most prominent European festivals. She also worked as a producer of a music video, a script supervisor and an assistant to a movie director.

Levan Tskhovrebadze2Levan Tskhovrebadze is a student of film studies in Ilia State University, Georgia. He has written and made other kind of journalistic content for Georgian outlets like Indigo, Cinemania.ge or Demo.ge. Recently he started working for Ilia State University online publication Cinexpress.iliauni.edu.ge where he writes reviews, articles and also translates some of the important articles or interviews about cinema into Georgian. He has covered few festivals as a film critic. He was doing video blogs for Berlin International Film Festival 2019th edition and has made some content at CinéDOC-Tbilisi and Batumi International Art-House Film Festival. Cinexpress is also the Ilia State University’s Film Club where he made public reports before screenings.

Oleksandra Povoroznyk2Oleksandra Povoroznyk is a film critic and journalist based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She is currently working for Vertigo.com.ua, one of the largest Ukrainian websites devoted to the film industry and entertainment in general. She is also the host of two podcasts about movies and TV.

Denisa Jašová2Denisa Jašová is a PhD student of Audiovisual Studies at Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. As a Film Studies and Archival Science graduate, she specializes on archival research in film and TV history, especially on Czechoslovak amateur film and TV non-fiction programmes from 70s and 80s. She also works as a researcher for TV documentaries, as a librarian in the Central European House of Photography and as a talk show host in student radio talk show called Cinefil. She frequently writes for magazine Film.sk, IFF Cinematik Piešťany and her first paper about the history of Slovak amateur film will be released in October 2019 in Kino-Ikon magazine. She simply loves film archives.

Bogdan Balla2Bogdan Balla is a Romanian experimental film director and freelance film critic based in Bucharest. He studies film directing at the National University of Theatre and Film and writes for FILM MENU. Besides directing and producing his own films, he also works as an independent freelance film critic. He reads bell hooks and is passionate about queer cinema. He has a preference for working with archival footage for his films.

Svetlana Semenchuk2Svetlana Semenchuk is an author of such publications on cinema as “Seanse”, “The Art of Cinema”, “Cinema TV” and other. The author-composer of the books “S. M. Eisenstein: pro et contra: Sergey Eisenstein in national reflection: anthology” and “E. F. Bauer: pro et contra. Eugene Frantsevich Bauer in assessments of contemporaries, colleagues, researchers, film critics. Anthology”. Teacher of the St. Petersburg New Cinema School, and at the St. Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television.

TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project

amber wilkinson2Amber Wilkinson  is a journalist with more than 20 years experience. She is the co-founder and editorial director of UK-based website Eye For Film. Her byline has appeared in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Filmmaker Magazine among others. She also contributes as a freelance film critic on BBC Radio Scotland. She has run several FIPRESCI young critics' workshops and mentored student critics at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2018 and 2019.

TommasoTommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering film festivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for Berlinale Talents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.