Censored Voices

 

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The voices of the title are those recorded in 1967 during the weeks immediately following the triumphant victory of Israel over Egypt, Jordan and Syria in the Six-Day War. The author Amos Oz along with Avraham Shapira and others sought out young soldiers whose experiences meant that their feelings were very different from those of the jubilant populace. These young men proved willing to talk, but the tapes – or at least 70% of what was on them – dismayed the Israeli army who duly suppressed them. Now, at long last, we can hear them in this documentary film by Mor Loushy.


The format adopted is to feature extracts from the tapes heard in a sequence that in effect follows the course of the war, thus giving shape to the film. All these years later we see in addition to Oz a number of those heard on the tapes listening to what they said then. But, if the soundtrack is made up largely of those words, Loushy has adroitly found images of the period – mainly in black and white but occasionally in colour – to accompany them, while the progress of the war is confirmed by inserting footage of the day from ABC News.

 

 Censored Voices

  

At the outset Oz recalls his aims: certainly not to make a victory album and not even first and foremost to record what these soldiers did, but to put on record what they felt. It might not fit well with national morale, but the endeavour was one dedicated to serving the truth. In fact Censored Voices works on two levels. The first is its specific confirmation of how this particular war was experienced by the young men made to participate and the second is as wider evidence of how war - any war - corrupts, even if, as this one was seen to be, it is a just war. Thus it is that, despite having had initial fears of what lay ahead, we find some new soldiers embracing war readily but then starting to be affected by the killing involved (one comment is by a man who had readily killed but was then overcome emotionally when he found on the corpse photographs of a wife and child). Similarly the cost of war is brought home for another when he arrives at a ghost town, virtually destroyed and with goats and dogs the only inhabitants.


The film does investigate elements particular to this war, especially when dealing with the recovery of Jerusalem and the proclamation of it as a united city. There are indications here of a generational divide with older Israelis taking a different attitude to those youngsters who largely come to feel that people matter more than places. It’s an attitude encouraged by killings ordered to be carried out after a cease fire, by awareness of innocent civilians being shot and, most of all, by the impact of the consequent enforced evacuation of Arabs from homes in area now taken over. There is a sense that the attitude of the Jews in authority towards the Arabs was uncomfortably reminiscent of the inhumanity of those responsible for the Holocaust and that this war, celebrated victory though it was, did nothing to end tensions but only built them up.

 

Censored Voices is not a perfect film although its tone is admirable and is epitomised by the restrained tone of Markus Aust’s music score. Although lasting less than an hour and a half, it does contain some unnecessary repetition and, well-judged though the visuals are, one is aware that the pictures however suited do not actually belong to the exact events being described (this is acknowledged in the end credits). But these points are insignificant compared to the value of the film which is particularly suitable for screening to those in school, boys especially, since it illustrates so vividly the true nature of war. No less importantly it challenges Jewish audiences to accept its belief that the views expressed on these tapes, the views which so horrified the authorities, are in fact a true expression of the humanity required if a nation is to live up to its ideals.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Amos Oz.

 

Dir Mor Loushy, Pro Daniel Sivan, Hilla Medalia and Neta Zwebner, Written by Loushy, Sivan and others, Ph Itai Raziel and Avner Sharaf, Ed Sivan, Music Markus Aust. 

 

yes Docu. Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg/Arte etc.-Dogwoof.

84 mins. USA/Israel/Germany/UK/Australia/Canada/Switzerland/The Netherlands. 2015. Rel: 16 October 2015. No Cert.