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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.75%
Average: 6.25%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 6.25%

1 review, 10 user ratings

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Ford Transit
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by Chris Parry

"Taxicab Confessions: Palestinian-style"
5 stars

If you're one of the millions in the western world who hears the words "Middle East", "Palestinian" and "Israeli", and tend to tune out all that precedes and follows, you're not alone. Most people know there's some sort of drama going on out there, two sides that hate each other, the occasional terrorist act and a lot of rocketfire in retaliation. But any big conflict has its base in something deeper than the shreds we hear on CNN, and getting to the core of that conflict is always a big ask when you have a busy life of your own to concern yourself with. Ford Transit may just change that. If you ever wished you could get a quick primer on 'the troubles' and get to the root of the problem, this funny, dramatic, intriguing almost-documentary is just the ticket. Take my word for it - it will change your perceptions on many things.

Raiji is a Ford driver. In the US that means he probably drives a pick-up and wears a dirty John Deere cap, but in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, it means he's a mini-bus driver. See, when the Oslo peace accord of a few years ago was signed, effectively creating a Palestinian state, former Israeli collaborators complained that they no longer had jobs. So the Israeli government handed over their entire (aging) fleet of white Ford Transit passenger vans and told the former double agents to start working as taxi drivers.

Most did no such thing, instead selling the vans for a quick profit, but the vans themselves have all ended up being an invaluable part of daily Palestinian life, because Israeli checkpoints setup every few miles make driving a car a very difficult experience. 'The Fords' go between checkpoint roadblocks, picking people up and dropping more off, so those people can walk through the checkpoint crossings (much faster than driving), and get another ride on the other side.

Essentially, if you live in the occupied Palestinian lands, you can not move about freely without showing ID several times, being searched once or twice, and succumbing to curfews that make travel after 7PM illegal. Got a job in another town? Tough. A business suit and briefcase won't get you through the checkpoints any faster than religious robes will. Even politicians have to stop, be searched, look down the barrel of a gun and explain why they want to travel.

And that's where Raiji comes in. His job is to ferry folks back and forth, negotiating the checkpoints, perhaps even do a bit of smuggling, hustle his way through dirt road detours and generally outsmart those who would have his passengers wait three hours to pass.

Filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad decided to ride with Raiji after the driver had worked for him on his earlier film Rana's Wedding. Following the Ford for several weeks, and interviewing those riding in the back, you get a view of Palestinian life that, for some reason, is rarely seen on our traditional news services. We're given this picture that Palestinians are half-mad, sending their children out to kill Israelis, throwing stones and living in caves where plans of world domination are hatched.

The reality is much different. Raiji's Ford is filled with people of all walks of life, from politicians trying to make it home before curfew (the Palestinian Minister for Trade looks a lonely figure standing in his business suit as Israeli soldiers point a machine gun at him and bark orders, while his ride sits just meters away on the other side), to old women trying to sneak cucumbers back to their hometown, to Canadian students full of cliched catchphrases about how they're helping matters.

One particularly startling, if funny, scene involves a waiter, dressed in black and white hospitality garb, complete with bow tie, asking a lawyer how much it would cost to ask a court to allow him to reunite with his Israeli wife in Jerusalem. "$3000" comes the answer, leading another man in the back of the bus to remark, "$3000? It'd be cheaper to re-marry."

The situation brings laughs, but it also brings questions. How low have we sunk when a man waiting tables for a living is told he can't be with his wife because he's Palestinian and she's Israeli? When they lie down at night barely fifty miles apart, but can't cross an imaginary line because he's of impure stock? Irrespective of security concerns, how can we claim we are in the right when we subject people to such indignation?

The commonplace site of leveled homes does nothing to soften this question, and the reaction of Israeli solders when they hear a smart-assed remark (a sock to the jaw takes the wind out of any wise-guy's sails, camera or not) reinforces the point. When you flatten a neighborhood with a tank, turn off the water supply, fence off the area in question, arrest without warning and contain without charge, threaten, beat and berate an entire population of people for the ills of a tiny percentage, how can you really expect them to do anything but lash out at you in return?

When you make a man endure five hours or checkpoints, body searches, ID checks and interrogation just to get to and from his accounting job, are you really stopping terrorism, or are you simply breeding more hatred?

Abu-Assad has created a documentary here that goes far beyond telling a simple story, and steers very clear of pushing an "Israel is a bad guy" point of view. He simply follows Raiji over the course of his day - but when Raiji is fired at by snipers, beaten by police, beaten again by other cabbies and finally has to abandon his vehicle when it dies on him in the middle of no-man's land with snipers at the ready, it really makes you think just how far a man has to be pushed before he decides to strap some C4 to his back and take the easy way out. Superlative filmmaking.

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originally posted: 09/09/03 14:27:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/28/11 Nicolas Ferretti how did you find this movie? i need it so bad! 4 stars
7/20/09 Kazeldow Hi webmaster! yfh 1 stars
5/04/06 me beatiful 5 stars
10/13/04 naneaux even if it's not a real documentary, it's a peek into an unimaginable life - you'll learn! 4 stars
8/23/04 O The film isn't really a documentary, most of it is scripted 3 stars
7/05/04 M Boqaie 5 stars
7/01/04 Aysha Hany Abu Asaad and his cast are brilliant makers. Palestine needs more of them! 5 stars
3/25/04 Bingo was his name-o Really balanced, and genuinely amazing that nobody has picked it up. A must-see. 4 stars
10/22/03 Muna A slice of Palestinian society -- clever 5 stars
10/14/03 Lou Maloof Balanced, informative, entertaining, smart. 5 stars
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  07-Sep-2003 (NR)



Directed by
  Hany Abu-Assad

Written by
  Hany Abu-Assad
  Bere Beyer

  B.Z. Goldberg
  Hanna Ashrawi
  Hany Abu-Assad

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