SUNDANCE REVIEW – “Tantura”
In Tantura, director Alon Schwarz visits former Israeli soldiers of the Alexandroni brigade as well as Palestinian residents in an effort to re-examine what happened in Tantura and explore why “Nakba” is taboo in Israeli society. Nearly all of the people that Alon Schwarz visits and interviews are well into their elderly years, so getting them to recount their time as soldiers might not be the most easy thing to accomplish. There’s also a general theme throughout the film of denial and suppression of traumatic events that is super prevalent throughout each and every denial that Schwarz runs into when conducting these interviews.
Even aside from the people who are either too old to remember what they did and what exactly went down, or simply just pretend to not know – what makes the film truly interesting is pairing these interviews and constant denials with the tapes of a man named Teddy Katz. He originally conducted research into a large-scale massacre that had allegedly occurred in the village of Tantura in 1948. His work later came under attack and his reputation was ruined, just for conducting these interviews in the first place. But luckily for director Alon Schwarz, Teddy still has all these tapes and documents readily available when he asks for an interview about his findings. About 140 hours of audio testimonies remain.
From beginning to end, Tantura is a riveting film about regret, repression, and the consequences of war. There isn’t necessarily a clear through-line narratively speaking, and it does feel like a meat-and-potatoes documentary that simply feeds you the information and lets you digest it. But it’s nonetheless fascinating, and one of the absolute best documentaries I’ve seen in recent memory. There are certain interviews had and images shown that will stick with me forever.