THE INNER TOUR

Wed. Dec. 9, 7:15pm at Cinemapolis

One show only, followed by discussion

Directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz (2001). 97 minutes. Arabic, Hebrew with English subtitles, Color. Filmed in Israel. Director of photography, Shark (Sharon) De Mayo; edited by Ron Goldman; music by George Yosof Semaan, Noam Halevi, Ehud Bani and Muhssein Abed al-Hamid; produced by Raed Andoni and Liran Atzmor.  Not rated.

The Inner Tour  follows a group of Palestinian tourists from the occupied West Bank on a three-day official Israeli sightseeing tour through a land they had fled or been expelled from between 1948-1967. Their responses to the changed landscape offer a subdued but poignant commentary on what is now called “The Situation” in Israel/Palestine. Director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz is better known for The Law in These Parts, a 2011 film about the Israeli military courts.

“When the tour bus stops on a beach, several of the children see the sea for the first time.”

New York Times movie review by Elvis Mitchell, April 1, 2002:  Inner Tour follows Palestinian tourists from the West Bank on a three-day bus trip to places in Israel where some once owned homes and raised families. Director Raanan Alexandrowicz keeps his camera close to his subjects to pick up the alternating currents of loss, misery, homesickness and resignation. With the turmoil taking place in the Middle East and the breakdowns in peace talks, the movie could almost be called ”Last Tour.” Anger combines with resignation as the Palestinians are led on a museum tour and see firsthand that the area that was once their home has been renamed; they see that their history has been eliminated.

Inner Tour can’t be taken simply as favoring one side over the other. The movie wants us to understand the feelings of separation that come when a people to whom home is a kind of self-definition — and has been for centuries — have been denied that access to home. In one scene that has taken on a richer depth of feeling, given recent events, one of the Palestinians jumps in a taxi and asks, with intense curiosity, to be taken to where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. It turns out that he wants to see the site because he once met Rabin, who he felt was honorable and respectful.

Mr. Alexandrowicz pays respect to the people mourning their homes by showing the fullness of their lives. One young man flirts with a pair of Italian girls, trying to explain his troubled family situation to them and asking, finally, for their e-mail addresses. This same young man has to talk to his mother through a fence on the Lebanese border.

The picture ends with a beautiful coda: an elderly man pulls up a piece of dandelion to chew on it, marveling at its flavor. He was at a spot where he gardened as a boy, and his labors were still flowering many years after.

It’s an obvious metaphor that the director is reaching for here, but pardonable. He doesn’t mention that the prickly dandelion makes a fine dish when cooked with other types of greens, which could also serve as a metaphor for the kind of mixing needed to quiet the tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Inner Tour is smart enough to answer questions; what it wants to do is offer hope, or at least make a wish for it.

Plot summary from IMDb: In 2000, Palestinians could go into Israel on tours. About 20 people take a three-day trip through Galilee to the Lebanon boarder and then to Tel Aviv and Jaffa. They visit a kibbutz, a fort built during the Crusades, and the Mediterranean at Acra. We hear conversations about occupation and loss. Several have been in Israeli prisons. One visits the Rabin Memorial in Tel Aviv and tells a story about him. Another sees his mother in Lebanon through barbed wire. One woman’s husband was gunned down by Israeli soldiers while walking home; another’s husband serves a life sentence for killing an Israeli solder. An old man walks under a trestle and across a field to his father’s grave.