In recent weeks, the highly-regarded Montreal International Documentary Festival has been playing at multiple venues around the downtown area. The MIDF shows documentaries presenting a variety of issues affecting places or people throughout the world, which are discussed in hopes of providing alternative viewpoints on broadly themed topics related to political, environmental or social issues. Among these films I had the opportunity to watch a little known documentary titled Hula and Natan by Israeli director Robby Elmaliah. Hula and Natan tells the tragic, yet comedic story of two brothers caught in the midst of war and everyday life in Sderot, Israel, a town regularly bombarded by rockets from the Gaza Strip. Apart from the war raging around them, the two brothers, named Hula and Natan, are fighting their own personal problems with life at home, including the threat of eviction off their garage lot over territorial disputes with the Israeli Government.
Hula and Natan begins on the eve of the 2008 Israel Independence Day and details the everyday lives of the two namesake brothers, who spend hot days working in a dilapidated garage originally bought from their father following the Six Day War in 1967. Due to the garage’s proximity to the Gaza Strip, Hula and Natan deal with the daily threat of Qassam rockets flying from the Gaza Strip. They recall stories of rockets coming close to their vehicles, such as one which almost hit Hula years before. Another consequence of the garage’s proximity to the border and the ever-changing nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the brothers’ eviction posted by the Isreali government under the claims that the garage was not in Israeli territory. Beyond external conflicts personal problems also plague the brothers, who are each divorced and have sour relations with their former spouses.
As the lives of the two brothers head to ruins, the rising tensions between the State of Israel and Hamas (the terrorist group rooted in the Gaza Strip) continue to grow with the increased frequency of missile launches. Although the brothers remain apathetic to the conflict in most respects, their growing abhorrence towards it is quite apparent in their hostile remarks on the current Gaza conflict. The film ends with the initiation of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, which was a large-scale military operation by the Israeli government designed to root-out terrorist cells in Gaza responsible for rocket launches. The final scene shows Hula and Natan watching over Gaza as Israeli jets strike targets. While others clap for the scene of destruction, Hula turns to them and calls them disgusting.
This particular film is a telling story not only of two brothers caught in the middle of war, but also of the absurdities that war entails. Constant war is the main cause of Hula and Natan’s miseries, whether they are threatened with eviction by the State of Israel or with death by rockets from Hamas. In an ironic sense, the goal of ensuring security by the Israeli government in this story has actually done the opposite. On the other hand, the constant bombardment of rockets by Hamas has only reinforced the notion that war can be futile and unending. To this point, Hula cynically asks whether the steel he sells to customers ends up in the very rockets being deployed towards Sderot from Gaza. Overall, Hula and Natan is not simply a story about the irrationalities of war but also serves as a stark reminder that war as a matter of principle can only lead to one’s own loss of principles.
– Cody Levine
Director: Robby Elmaliah
Producers: Sapir College-School of Audio and Visual Arts (Avner Faingulernt), Alma Films (Arik Bernstein), Robby Elmaliah
World Sales: JMT Films (Michael Treves) http://www.JMTFilms.com