“Shikun”: the cry of filmmaker Amos Gitaï against the policies of Benyamin Netanyahu

Filmed before the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, Shikun , by Amos Gitaï, was intended to be a pamphlet against the policy of the far-right government of Israeli Benyamin Netanyahu: in its sights, brutal repression in the occupied territories – denounced by Palestinian intellectual Elias Sanbar, in Le Monde , in September 2023 –, as well as the very controversial project to reform the judicial system, aimed at limiting the powers of the Supreme Court.

Born in 1950 in Haifa, the Israeli filmmaker and director is a tireless peace activist. He is the author of around twenty feature films, including The Last Day of Yitzhak Rabin (2015), named after the former Israeli prime minister, architect of the Oslo Accords (1993), who worked for mutual recognition between Israel and Palestine, before being assassinated by a Jewish religious extremist in 1995.

The release of Shikun , Wednesday March 6, after its world premiere at the Berlinale on February 18, today resonates strongly with the tragic news of the war waged by Israel in the Gaza Strip, and more broadly with the chaos in the world resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, since 2022. Inspired by the play Rhinoceros , by Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994) , created in 1959 at the Düsseldorf Theater (Germany), this conceptual film, denouncing totalitarianism and authoritarian excesses, is carried by the actress Irène Jacob, all fire, all flame. Symbol of a humanity in distress, the rhino is this pachyderm which, one day, appears in the streets and terrorizes people.

Amos Gitaï chooses to shoot in camera in a huge social housing building ( shikun , in Hebrew), with its long passageways overlooking the street. The building, located in the town of Beersheba in the center of the Negev desert in southern Israel, looks like Noah’s ark – Ukrainian women come to find refuge there.

expressionist game

From the first scene, Irène Jacob establishes an atmosphere of strangeness, seemingly disjointed remarks coming from her mouth. The actress plays several protagonists, those who are outraged and reject the ambient savagery, those who, on the contrary, put up with it or minimize the facts. This inaugural blurring takes us outside the confines of committed fiction: here we are in an underworld filmed in sequence shots where so-called “normal” life no longer takes place. All that remains are men and women passing through, commenting on the worst to come, in dialogues in Hebrew and Arabic.

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