Cannes Film Festival: the rage of Nadav Lapid and “Le Genou d’Ahed”, the urgency of a film

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With Ahed’s Knee, Israeli director Nadav Lapid, 46, has rocked and impressed the Cannes Film Festival and beyond. In the running for the Palme d’Or, this is a partly autobiographical, political and poetic film, always on the razor’s edge, between political and cinematographic manifesto, radical documentary and theatrical parable.

The opening scene is as violent as it is sordid. Imprisoned by the occupation army, summoned to an office that looks like a police station, the young Palestinian activist Ahed is confronted with her past. At 16, she slapped a soldier, her sister and brother were killed by the army, her father thrown in prison. To put an end to his activities against the established order and the repressive machinery of the government, a state agent shoots him in the kneecap to put him under house arrest for life.

Thus, Ahed’s knee makes its grand entrance into history. Framed in close-up, this key part for every movement of the body begins to dance and sing. ” where is your victory ? In martyrdom. “Let the madness begin…

When the director and the soldiers land at the same time

Gradually, we realize that all the facts told are indeed real. But, at the same time, we find ourselves in the cast of director Y’s new film. The latter, visibly broke and severely affected by his mother’s cancer, agrees to screen his most famous film in a small town of 3,000 inhabitants in full desert. And it is not insignificant that the small airliner which brings Y to the Arava desert also transports soldiers supposed to defend the occupied territories.

Because, far from everything, the repression felt turns out to be the same. Even in these remote areas, Israel, denounced by Y as ” a nationalist and racist Jewish state reframes and oppresses every dissenting opinion, requires each artist to fill out a form with the themes covered. On site, the committed director is welcomed by Yahalom (Nur Fibak, magnificent), young, beautiful, intelligent and incredibly attractive. Her passion for books and her conviction that culture is a means of liberation and emancipation have boosted her career. She was appointed Deputy Director of Libraries at the Ministry of Culture. A position that requires him to carry out orders completely against his convictions.

This state which vomit anything different

It is on this ground, or rather quicksand, that Nadav Lapid, winner of the 2019 Golden Bear for Synonyms, builds his scenario with a formidable and diabolical efficiency. When Y tells Yahalom about his horrific experiences of hazing and torture during military service, no one can guess his role in this story. In this space between what is displayed and what is hidden, Nadav Lapid deconstructs Israeli society and this state which ” vomit anything different “.

Admittedly, the film’s point of view is very clear, but despite its repeated charges against the policies of the State of Israel, it avoids being Manichean. It highlights the extent to which Israeli citizens are tearing each other apart and self-destructing, and shows the degree of mistrust, contempt and aggression assimilated by each because of the policy of oppression imposed.

When Nadav Lapid makes the camera dance

The Israeli director’s camera work is extraordinary. He makes each shot lively, surprising, disconcerting. Written in just two weeks and shot with very little means, the result is stunningly intelligent and inventive. For certain sequences, Lapid makes the camera dance, in keeping with the very sensitive acting of Avshalom Pollak, moreover also a choreographer and artistic director of a dance company. Scene by scene, image by image, he surprises us or makes us laugh: for example when he marks his territory by urinating on the sand. To his dying mother he sends the sunset with the dedication ” the last minute of today “. A fine metaphor for the urgency of this film.

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Cannes Film Festival: the rage of Nadav Lapid and “Le Genou d’Ahed”, the urgency of a film