Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Murder by the Sea - And what it means to Israeli Society

Last night I had the opportunity to see a screening of "Blues by the Beach" a documentary by Jack Baxter and others. This powerful film is about the bombing at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv in 2003, where three people were killed, and scores were injured. Mikes Place calls itself "an island of sanity in a region torn apart by conflict." And that it is. A place where people from all over, and from all walks of life get together to listen to American music, talk English, and have a good time. One of the most fascinating things about the documentary is that they began filming a movie set around the bar, with absolutely no inkling of what was to come. They interviewed people that worked there, showed them having their breaks, their cigarettes, their beers. Having a good time. In the blink of an eye, totally unsuspecting, the world is turned upside down. What began as a human interest story, ended as a human tragedy story. And powerful it was. Three people died, but the one that the filmmaker seemed to focus on was Dominique Haas, (Photo at left.... from the Mike's Place website) a beautiful pastry chef from France, who had come to Israel not because she was a Zionist or a religious Jew. Just because she wanted to.
One of the most poignant and sad things about the film was the relationship between Pavla, who edited the film, and Joshua, who was the photographer for most of it. Joshua and Pavla were boyfriend/girlfriend, who seemed to be quite in love early in the film. The night of the bombing, they had different reactions. In the chaos of the situation, they reacted very differently. Pavla, feeling that Joshua was too emotional, and not "strong enough," needing the support of a "strong man" slept with a mutual friend that night seeking comfort and solace. Joshua just needed time alone, to deal with the loss and the hurt of that night. When Pavla told Joshua she had slept with another man she implied that Joshua was not strong enough for her that night, he wanted little to do with her. The movie showed their relationship after this episode, and Pavla's attempt to make up with Joshua, but it was not to be. Pavla returned to the Czech Republic, and their relationship ended.
This is, I believe one of the more tragic results of the terror in Israel. It also reminds me of what I wrote in an earlier post about how hard it is to feel for something when you are not directly involved. At least it is for me. I know there are those who can catapult themselves into other places, start to feel and cry, but for me, I have to be there. And that is what "blues by the beach" did for me. I was IN Mike's place. I met Dominique. She was real. And then she was gone. Just like that. So incredibly sad. It made me angry. The senselessness of it all. The killing of people who were out for the evening on the beach, having a beer, dancing. 29 years old. Gone.
Equally sad was the story of Pavla and Joshua. A young couple in love who were propelled into oblivion and destroyed because of this. Maybe Pavla didn't really love Joshua. Maybe these problems would have surfaced later in their relationship. Maybe not. What I am left wondering is after the thousands of innocents maimed and killed who were out eating pizza, drinking a beer, dancing...... How many Joshua and Pavla's are left in Israeli society? A human tragedy that continued beyond the dead, the injured, the re-building. It makes me angry.


XYZ154 said...

Tragic, yes, but the tragedy begs the question of "what now?".

Bloggers on the right and left will argue about the solution to ending the madness. Stricter and tougher or more lenient and open? And at the end of the day, little, if any, progress will be made...we're too busy arguing over Hooters.

fran strauss-baxter said...

Thank you, Mottel, for your comments about "Blues By The Beach." My husband and I continue to believe the film has the power to change perceptions about real-life in Israel.

Please note that the editor of the film is Matous Outrata. Matous edited "Blues" here in New York City and Prague for two years (2003-2005). He is a truly gifted film editor.

"Blues By The Beach" screening at Westchester's Jacob Burns Center sold-out Monday night. I'm glad you were able to see it, and again, thank you for writing about it.

Fran Strauss-Baxter

Mottel said...

Fran, thanks for the response and correction. It was a moving film, and I too am glad I had the chance to see it. I hope Jack is doing ok. Would have loved to have had you two there the other night at the JBFC.