For filmmaker Simone Bitton, Israel’s security fence is a symbolic representation of her own divided identity as both Jew and Arab, and her documentary Wall operates less as an investigation into the history and politics of the structure’s construction than as a personal meditation on the social and psychological toll of the edifice on both Israelis and Palestinians. Bitton’s sparsely beautiful film is simply composed, interspersing tracking shots of the omnipresent, landscape-blighting fence in its myriad forms (concrete slabs, electrified barbed wire, trenches, checkpoints, watchtowers) with Muslims and Jews, their faces only occasionally accompanying their sad, hopeless, and angry views on the wall’s impact on the discordant region.
Bitton’s camera never overtly divulges on which side of the fence it’s positioned, thus producing an atmosphere of dislocated, pervasive misery which links the frustrated sorrow of a Palestinian farmer whose fruit and vegetable trees (which helped pay for his daughters’ college educations) suddenly reside in forbidden territory, and that of a Jew’s despondency over Israelis’ decision, 50 years after the Holocaust, to now voluntarily imprison themselves. The director remains largely silent throughout her narration-free inquiry, but one can faintly discern her allegiances during a final, lingering shot of stern Amos Yaron, director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, during an interview in which—after clinically describing the fence as “a means to obstruct terrorist penetration”—he coldly explains the structure’s existence with, “It’s all the Palestinians’ fault.”
Partiality, however, isn’t what undermines the somber yet skin-deep Wall, but rather a refusal to complement its impassioned interviewees’ comments with any background on the knotty, momentous events that preceded and spawned this precise moment in time. Bitton’s film exists in a contextual vacuum, and without any historical grounding to help one ascertain the reliability of the wall’s numerous critics, her subjects’ laments—while moving in the abstract—have little far-reaching emotional resonance. Ultimately, hers is a portrait so caught up in the fence’s allegedly demeaning, corrosive effect that, to its detriment, it ignores the equally significant, painful causes that led to the barrier’s creation.