Igal Hecht (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)
Sunday, May 1, 4:30 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
Tuesday, May 3, 9:45 p.m.
Cumberland 2 (159 Cumberland Street)
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that most dangerous of topics for filmmakers: the kind that makes you think your film is interesting because it’s about something people are interested in, and that you have something to say because you’ve filmed something people talk about. Which is to say: you can’t just point your camera at a compelling subject and thereby produce a compelling documentary about it.
The Hilltops falls prey to this danger in a most unfortunate way, and though it is shot from some of West Bank’s higher reaches, it offers little by way of perspective. Set amongst Orthodox Jewish settlers attempting to create quick-build outposts in disputed territory—though they know the Israeli army will tear their plywood walls down just as fast—Igal Hecht does little more than give his footage over to those settlers to fill with their talking points. It’s a fair starting point, but Hecht never gets further than this political/religious establishing shot.
The other danger of this subject, of course, is that it is so frequently covered, in all media and all genres—fresh insight is especially hard to come by in territory that is so well-travelled. Hecht fails to puncture the rhetorical force-field that surrounds the settlers’ efforts, and The Hilltops feels, in the end, like nothing more than an extended version of a news reel we’ve seen unspool a thousand times before.