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Drones & Machsom: Dealing with Terrorism

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Drones: A Probing Look at President “Barrage” Obama’s Weapon of Choice

Ralph Fiennes’ bomb puts me in mind of droning on and on, but unlike Invisible Rick Rosenthal’s low budget feature Drones is right on the money. This tense, timely drama examines the moral dilemmas posed by Pres. “Barrage” Obama’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the so-called “war on terror.” Two Air Force “pilots” (Eloise Mumford and Matt O’Leary) at a Nevada base ponder the long distance bombing of a terrorist suspect half a world away in Afghanistan.

Should they or should they not unleash Hellfire missiles upon Al Qaeda suspect Mahmoud Khalil (Amir Khalighi) -- even if he is at a birthday party with children, women, elders and other unarmed civilians present? The pros and cons are philosophically debated, and Rosenthal cleverly opens up the action beyond the confines of the pilots’ quarters by cutting back and forth to/from footage of the Afghans, which deliberately resembles a videogame. Methinks Medea Benjamin would give this feature two big thumbs up.

Machsom: This Checkpoint Charlie’s Got the Blues

Drones was cleverly paired with the short Machsom, which is set at a West Bank checkpoint (or machsom in Hebrew) manned by Israeli Defense Force soldiers. Director/co-writer Joel Novoa insightfully reveals the internal tensions of the IDF unit, pitting the thoughtful 19-year-old Yaniv Greenblatt (Nick Greene) against a more insensitive soldier.

When a terrorist event triggers the checkpoint’s closure Yaniv is at a loss as to what to do with a Palestinian boy stranded on the Israeli side of the divide, and brings Mohammed Haddad (Yousif Alshekh) home to Sabbath dinner -- and his Jewish mother (Mima Siegel).

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Holy Portnoy, what a premise for a complaint! The 24-minute film was so truthful, well-directed and well-acted that this critic hopes funding is found so a feature length film is made and audiences can find out what happens to the absorbing, true to life, all too human characters. Check it out!

My Afghanistan: Life in the Forbidden Zone -- Home Movies from the Frontlines

My Afghanistan provides an Afghan’s eye view of the conflict tearing that Central Asian nation apart. It is directed by Afghan/Danish filmmaker Nagieb Khaja, who provides five Afghan civilians in the countryside around Helmand Province with high def cell phones so they can record their everyday lives. They are caught in a war zone, between a proverbial rock and a hard place -- the ISAF/U.S. forces and the Taliabn, who are locked in mortal combat.

No embedded lackey of imperialism, Khaja is critical of the role the U.S., Brits, Danes and other members of the occupying coalition play, along with the government troops and police. But most importantly of all the documentary reveals that war is hell for the unarmed villagers, and gives those who are all too often overlooked a voice with their home movies from the frontlines. The use of the cell phone shot imagery also has intriguing formalistic considerations for the evolution of the cinematic art form.

ed rampell

Ed Rampell

The new book co-authored by L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell, “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”, published by Honolulu’s Mutual Publishing, drops Nov. 25.