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
Călin Boto is a Romanian emergent film critic and the editor-in-chief of Film Menu, a film magazine edited by students of the Film University in National University of Film and Drama in Bucharest (UNATC). He has written articles for several cultural publications such as Dilema Veche,Dissolved Magazine, SUB25 and he coordinates Film Menu’s weekly cineclub. At the moment he’s working on a bachelor's degree on the films and film criticism of Jonas Mekas.
Barbara Majsa was born and raised in Hungary, but currently resides in Sweden and attends Stockholm University for Cinema Studies. She has worked as a journalist since 2009, and has covered several film festivals. Barbara is the managing editor at Cinema Scandinavia, where she interviews film-makers and focuses her work on artistic and cultural products that reflect upon society - films concerning social, societal, economic and political issues.
Yulia Kuzischina is a film journalist, based in Moscow. She studied visual culture at Higher School of Economics and later started to write for two film-related websites, RussoRosso and Kinomania.ru. Currently she also works at a film sales company Ant!pode Sales & Distribution. Her main field of interest is Eastern European cinema.
Tomáš Hudák is a programmer and a film critic based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Programming at independent cultural centre A4 – Space for contemporary culture, which focus on challenging and experimental art, is his main occupation throughout a year. He is also associated with IFF Cinematik in Pieštany, Bratislava IFF, and Film Festival 4 Elements in Banská Štiavnica. Regularly writing for film magazine Kinečko, his texts also appeared in other publications such as Senses of Cinema, Tess Magazine etc. In past, he worked as a film archivist at Slovak Film Institute and his archival research resulted in two papers on local film history.
Daria Badior is a film critic and a Culture Editor of LB.ua, one of Ukraine’s biggest online newspapers. Focuses on writing about contemporary Ukrainian cinema. Also she co-curates a project on LB.ua named Short-list about young Ukrainian filmmakers. Since 2017 takes part in selecting films for Kyiv Film Critics Week, a new film festival held at the end of October. A member of FIPRESCI.
Łukasz Mańkowski Half of the Asian Cinema focused blog ‘Referat Filmowy’, Japanese Studies and Film Theory graduate from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, specializing in Asian Film. Occasionally photographer, translator and theatre-film journalist who simply loves ramen. Previously member of 5 Flavours Film Festival People’s Jury, FEFF Udine Student Campus and EIFF Student Critics Competition.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Yoana Pavlova is a Bulgarian writer, researcher, and programmer currently based in Paris.Her field of work includes cinema, VR, digital culture, and the New East. She is the foundingeditor of Festivalists.com (a playform for experimental media criticism), with bylines fornumerous print and online publications in Bulgarian, English, and French. Contributor to thefollowing books: Cinemas of Paris (2016, St Andrews Film Studies), Eastern Promises (2014,Festival Internacional de Cine de Donostia – San Sebastián), The Bulgarian Nouvelle Vague(2012, Edno).
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering filmfestivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for BerlinaleTalents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.