This look at a young Israeli conscientious objector has a clear moral message, though is slightly let down by a more muddled execution
It can often feel trite to describe a documentary as “timely,” especially one that tackles an issue as perpetually under discussion as the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but it’s almost impossible to not use it when talking about Objector. A documentary about conscientious objection from the IDF, it releases as the region edges towards all-out war. Though it doesn’t have the punch that one might assume from it context, it’s still an enlightening and affecting look at the brief moments of optimism that can be found for the two countries’ futures, as young people come together with dreams of peace of decolonisation.
We follow Atalya Ben-Abba, a 19-year-old Israeli awaiting a stint in a military prison for refusing to serve in the IDF. Before she’s shipped off, Atalya makes a series of visits to Palestinian villages that are, bit by bit, being demolished or denied water in order to make way for further Israeli settlements, and brings these horror stories home to her friends and family.
Director Molly Stuart generally lets the crimes of the IDF speak for themselves, showing gut-wrenching footage of homes being bulldozed and soldiers spying on children playing without any overbearing music or voiceover. Atalya’s home life is handled with a similar subtle righteousness, as she and her brother gradually win over their more staunchly pro-IDF parents, and it’s moving to see the genuine, seismic impact her actions have on her immediate surroundings.
It’s odd then, given the calm confidence often on show in Objector, that there should also be so many directorial missteps – a re-enactment of a tribunal hearing is unconvincing and one sequence intercutting an interpretive dance with IDF atrocities all set to soft music is distractingly bizarre. Objector is a film with a keen and clear moral voice, showing the wilful, wanton cruelty of the Israeli state as it makes day-to-day life for Palestinians ever more impossible, but odd choices and sometimes lumpy editing keep it from having the emotional wallop it should possess.
Objector is now available on True Story.Where to watch