France, Germany, Finland, Israel
This film attempts to instill meaning in the term “occupation” in the form of a “manual for military occupation” derived from the testimonies of those people who implemented it in practice. Director Avi Mograbi hosts the viewers in his living room and provides insights to how a colonialist occupation works, the logic behind the practices that it produces and the different modes of thought needed to be applied at different situations in order to maintain it. In his presentation Mograbi is using the 54-year Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a case study.
The occupation as we see it is like a creature with an infinite number of heads. Each head is a good person, who served in the Israeli army and was stationed in the Occupied Territories, where he completed the missions imposed on him, and ultimately believed that he was taking part in fulfilling Israel’s conception of security. Almost every Jewish Israeli served in the army and played a part, whether directly or indirectly, in the day-to-day maintenance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There have been many generations of laborers who did the dirty work, who learned the trade and passed it on to one another, from father to son, so that the next generation would know how to grease the cogs of military control. A miniscule group of them appears in this film and breaks down this service into daily activities. These are testimonies and not opinions. The witnesses in this film do not describe their thoughts or positions concerning what they did. They simply talk about what they did and about the actions that they were required to participate in, so that the occupation could exist then and continue to exist into the future. Not one of these activities is essential to the persistence of the occupation, but together, they constitute the occupation’s very essence.
Originally the film was called THE FIRST 54 YEARS and only at a later stage the ABBREVIATED MANUAL FOR MILITARY OCCUPATION was added.
At first I was convinced that to index the testimonies within a certain logic that would create internal connections between them would be enough to tell the story of the occupation which is probably the longest in modern history. I thought that a compilation of one testimony and yet another one and another and so forth would autonomously create the meaning of what is occupation, what it means to be an occupier, what it involves to sustain an occupation and under what kind of system those living under occupation find themselves, i.e. the Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
It was clear to me from the very first moment that I was going to concentrate only on actions, deeds, commands and mechanisms as the soldiers describe them and not on their reflections concerning the things they did. I wanted to expose to the viewer what an occupation means, how it works, what needs to be done for the occupation to sustain itself.
But as the editing of the film progressed, it became clear to me that I had to develop some kind of framework that would contain the deeper meaning for this huge enterprise, the largest that the State of Israel has created in its 73 years of existence. After all, I do not assume that the purpose Israel is maintaining this occupation is solely to cause suffering to the Palestinians. It was clear to me that in order for my project to be complete I had to connect the very strong body of testimonies with some logic that would allow a deeper understanding of the reasons why this occupation lasts for so many years and why it is also unlikely to end and disintegrate in the foreseeable future.
The vast majority of the testimonies deal with local events which in themselves do not reveal the general incentive that led to their formation. The single incident of imposing a curfew, erecting a checkpoint, detaining someone or restricting movement does not usually indicate the general end for which it serves.
Thus was born the ABBREVIATED MANUAL FOR MILITARY OCCUPATION - a kind of handbook of instructions for operating a military occupation of a territory that deals not only with the "how to" but also with the aim of these provisions. What general purpose does this or that mechanism serve, what is the incentive of the occupier when imposing a certain system of laws and rules on the inhabitants of the occupied territory?
It was clear to me that none of the persons who were part of the system that created and set the rules of the occupation would agree to collaborate with this project and honestly reveal the logic behind the huge machine of the occupation. Therefore I had no choice but to volunteer and take upon myself the role of representing this enormous system known as the Israeli occupation.
Mograbi, one of Israel’s most distinguished filmmakers, is known for his unwavering commitment to social, cultural and political justice in the Middle East, as well as his experimentalism and innovative contribution to cinematic language. As an engaged filmmaker, he is actively involved in "Breaking the Silence", an organization dedicated to collecting the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Mograbi also makes video exhibitions (The Details, in the Museo La Tertulia in Cali, Colombia and Maison des Metallos, Paris, France in 2015) and participates in many group exhibitions in the world. Le Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris held a retrospective of his films and videos in 2015.
Avi Mograbi’s documentary films have been programmed by festivals worldwide, including: Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Rome, New York, FID Marseille, Vision du Reel and San Francisco, among others.
2021 - THE FIRST 54 YEARS - AN ABBREVIATED MANUAL FOR MILITARY OCCUPATION
2016 - BETWEEN FENCES
2012 - ONCE I ENTERED A GARDEN
2008 - Z32
2005 - AVENGE BUT ONE OF MY TWO EYES
2002 - AUGUST
1999 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. MOGRABI
1997 - HOW I LEARNED TO OVERCOME MY FEAR AND LOVE ARIEL SHARON
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Avi Mograbi
Written by: Avi Mograbi
Produced by: Serge Lalou, Camille Laemlé, Annie Ohayon-Deckel, Avi Mograbi, Leila Lyytikäinen, Elina Pohjola, Heino Deckert
Cinematography: Philippe Bellaiche, Tulik Galon
Editing: Avi Mograbi
Sound: Joonas Jyrälä, Dominique Vieillard
Nominations and Awards
- Documentary Selection 2021