How do you move on when there is no justice possible?
DIRECTED BY MIRI LAUFER and EREZ LAUFER (Israel/South Africa, International Spectrum)
Sunday, April 29, 9 p.m.
Cumberland 2 (159 Cumberland Street)
Tuesday, May 1, 11 a.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)
Saturday, May 5, 4 p.m.
ROM Theatre (100 Bloor Street West)
To the extent that One Day After Peace has a thesis, it’s this: conflict ends not with justice, but with acknowledgement. Not laws, not accords, not carefully negotiated settlement agreements—but another person, in all their specificity and messiness and loves and hates and violence and suffering.
The documentary is a rare gift in the growing body of documentary film dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: it doesn’t reduce its subjects to caricatures, it doesn’t take them to be emblems of anything, and it isn’t trauma pornography.
One Day centres on Robi Damelin, an Israeli whose son David is killed by a Palestinian sniper, Thaer Hamad. Originally from South Africa, Damelin returns there to meet with participants in that country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Though it’s a fascinating psychological study, Damelin’s quest is far from academic; for her the trip is an inquiry into the possibility and nature of forgiveness as she decides whether to seek out a meeting with her son’s killer, who lost his own family to Israeli soldiers long before taking up a gun himself. The film draws no direct equivalence between the situations in South Africa and Israel/Palestine; what it does do is explore whether the aftermath of Apartheid offers any insight into how individuals, and entire nations, can move on from decades of violence and fear.
To the extent that the people Damelin meets with have found relief, it’s by focusing on the particularity of the other: it’s by learning the biography of your child’s killer that you come to see them as a person and not just a murderer, and thereby can begin to approach forgiveness. As a film, One Day is also concerned primarily with the specific rather than the general. There is no moralizing, no programmatic statement of some supposed “path to peace”—just a layered, carefully rendered exploration of one woman’s attempt to find her way through a horror which doesn’t yield to platitudes or a simple division of sides.