Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Rock in the Red Zone: Sderot Rocks On
ought to be known as Israel’s Seattle, considering how many earthy and
influential Israeli rock bands have hailed from there. Unfortunately, the
constant rocket attacks from Gaza have thus far frightened off potential music
tourists. By the time filmmaker Laura Bialis arrived, seven thousand so-called
Qassam rockets had already pummeled the city of some 20,000 citizens—and Hamas
was only getting started. However, Bialis would not be dissuaded from documenting
the Sderot scene in Rock in the Red Zone (trailer here), which opens this
Thursday in New York.
Qassam is basically a flying pipe bomb loaded with shrapnel. From a legitimate military
perspective, they are too unpredictable for practical use, but they are perfect
for inflicting pain on innocent civilians. Of course, that is exactly why Hamas
and their fellow terrorists use them. When Bialis started filming in Sderot,
the city was just inside the so-called Red Zone, making it ground zero for
Qassam attacks. Thanks to the alert system, Sderot residences had fifteen
seconds to find shelter after a launch was detected (that’s fifteen Mississippi’s).
Eventually, other cities started to feel Sderot’s pain, but for years, Qassam
attacks were a perversely localized phenomenon. Music became the coping
mechanism for a deeply traumatized city.
Bialis and many young Sderot musicians, it all starts with Sderock, a club and
rehearsal studio conveniently located in a bomb shelter. You had better get
used to seeing concrete reinforced basements. Bialis’s filming is interrupted
at least dozen times (probably more) by launch warnings. None of it was
included for effect. It is simply impossible to make a documentary in Sderot
without the sound of explosions.
Vaknin, the proprietor of Sderock, will introduce Bialis to a host of diverse
musicians calling Sderot (and its outskirts) home. In many ways, their brand of
rock incorporating what could be described as world music influences has conquered
the Israeli mainstream, yet at that point, Sderot still felt isolated and
forgotten. Since both were looking for flats, Vaknin and Bialis became
housemates—and life continued, despite the constant raining terror.
is a world class documentarian who previously made the outstanding Refusenik, but the immediacy and
emotional resonance of Red Zone is
something else entirely. Literally years in the making, it witnesses over a
decade of Israeli history from the perspective of the bullseye in the center of
Hamas’s target. At times it is harrowing, but it is also funny and deeply passionate,
particularly the music.
Without a doubt, Red Zone is the feel-good, get-angry, and get-down movie of the
year. When it is over, you will have seen a heck of a lot of life happening and
far too much tragedy. Very highly recommended, Rock in the Red Zone opens this Thursday (11/12) in New York, at
the Cinema Village.
Labels: Documentary, Israeli Cinema