Far from the indie movie Meccas of Los Angeles, Sundance, New York and Cannes and in the aftermath of the chaotic Middle Eastern travel ban igniting a global fallout, the inaugural Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival celebrated its first film with a standing room only audience, Monday March 13, 2017.
The historical occasion featured the Florida premiere of Sabena Highjacking – My Version , a reference to the captain Bernard Reginald Levy’s -first-person tape recorded log of what transpired on that fated flight. Pushing the boundaries of objectivity in contrast with volatile times, Sabena –Hijacking was inspired by Captain Levy’s own words, discovered on a reel-to-reel tape after Levy’s demise in 2010.
One cannot imagine a more apropos selection to debut the first iteration of the Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival; a celebration of film and an occasion for community engagement. The riveting docu-drama Sabena Hijacking is a moment -by-moment reenactment of a Sabena Flight 971 that was seized by four armed members of the Palestinian Black September terrorist organization on May 8, 1972. The subsequent storming of the jet by the Israeli special operations unit Sayeret Matkal evidenced true grit and heroism.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and given the temper of the times (then and now), Sabena takes a surprisingly non-biased view of the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Audience members commended the program and veteran filmmaker, creator and producer Nati Dinnar. His embrace of the conflict was acknowledged by the audience for its levity and balanced view. This was evidenced in the portrayal of both the Palestinian hijackers who were driven to the extreme in their demands to free 300 co-patriots from Israeli jails and the rescuers.
Four decades later documented recollections by those very passengers, rescuers and highjackers are portrayed as the best and worst of humanity. One of the most riveting was the live testimonies of Acre (Israel) born Palestinian – Therese Halsa – who was 19 at the time of their siege on Sabena. Bound up in suicidal explosives she insisted that an on board Israeli passenger suffering a diabetic hypoglycemic attack be administered a life saving injection of insulin.
The film received a standing ovation at its conclusion with the audience expressing in the Q&A discussion that Director Nati’s groundbreaking reenactment is a welcome portrayal of humankind acted “bravely and humanely in times of ever greater social polarization”. One audience member opined “It is imperative we find ways to a common ground”.
To paraphrase Mel Gibson the Oscar Winning director and actor who had been exiled from Hollywood for an anti-Semitic tirade speaks for many of us today, “ in spite of the venality and bigotry that has the world in a vice we are capable of a higher self”.
“This is why this movie is a love story, not a war story.” says Nati. It is a small film with a powerful message. So much so that its maker, Nati, bemoans ‘Sabena’ will have difficulty in securing a distribution platform that would bring the film to an audience the it so richly and urgently deserves. Are you listening Netflix?
Official Trailer: https://vimeo.com/127063572
Cristiane Roget -Correspondent new-release.press
vector international pictures
Photo- Shara Cristol-Filmmaker Nati Dinnar and Holly Gunker