Parsing the Oscars: Affleck turned resistance into peevishness

Israel/Palestine
on 21 Comments

I expected to see the illegal Israeli Occupation emblazoned in the Oscars’ annual spectacle Sunday night, but the announcement of the Academy Award for best documentary fizzled.  Why? Award-giver Ben Affleck’s list had a structural deception: it squeezed together all the plot summaries, without identifying the separate films, then named each with images of Palestine, Israel, and the U.S. that–out of context–conveyed nothing. 

Affleck opened by stating an ideal:

A documentary filmmaker uses the camera to show real life and real people in a way that is insightful, often astonishing, but–above all–truthful.  

But that truism isn’t true of the words Affleck mouthed next in listing the subjects of the nominated films, here, 5 Broken Cameras, “This year’s films illuminated the tension and resentment of those living in the West Bank….”

Affleck, who would later win the biggest prize, “Best Picture,” for an adventure flick fantasizing about a stereotypical battle of wits between supposed American derring-do against lesser Iranians, went right by the creative bravery that’s real in 5 Broken Cameras: Bil’in’s endlessly inventive Resistance.  He distorted a struggle in Occupied Palestine, involving the actual land-owners’ peaceful interference with theft and murder, as peevishness by transients with no claim to the land.

Next he described the Israeli film, The Gatekeepers

“…behind-the-scenes operatives in the same–working in secret in that same land; [Israeli Shin Bet Directors reduced to 'operatives'!]“

–before summarizing the three other films, and moving on to name them individually: “Here are the nominees for Best Documentary Feature: 5 Broken Cameras.” There followed clips of Emad Burnat with his broken cameras; of Israeli soldiers shoving demonstrators; of demonstrators being pushed as they held Palestinian flags; of three Israeli soldiers on an outcropping, with one firing a shot.

And for The Gatekeepers:  picture of the Handshake between Arafat and Rabin–with Clinton in between, pledging the 1993 Oslo declaration of principles; a clip of a targeted assassination; footage of pictures on the wall, Yitzak Shamir being  closest and biggest.

So, in sum, the Academy had Affleck: 1. Smush together the descriptions of all the films– without naming any.  listeners could not follow the meaning–let alone what was left out– through that muddle. All I caught at the time was the derogatory “resentment…in the West Bank.” 2. Omit the words “Israeli Government, illegal Occupation, and military.” 3. Censor the criticism that both 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers lodge at the Israeli Occupation. 4. Describe both documentaries–with confusing shots from each–in such a way that those “tensions and resentment of those living in the West Bank” seemed the fault of the demonstrators. 

After ignoring the real-life heroism of Palestinians and Israelis, Affleck’s advice in his own acceptance speech seemed sadly wasted: “it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is you gotta get up.” Ben Affleck’s words are truer than he knows, but about more than movie-making.

About Susie Kneedler

Who reads and sometimes writes....

Other posts by .


Posted In:

21 Responses

  1. kalithea
    February 28, 2013, 10:59 am

    I’d like to see Benny Boy Gigli get a mountain of twitters letting him know what a misinformed enabler of the perpetual war machine he is not to mention the fact that he resorts to BIASED racist stereotypes to give the dumb masses a cheap thrill. His film is pure propaganda fantasy and his constant digs against Iran and Iranians are contemptible and ignorant.

    link to mobile.twitter.com

  2. Kathleen
    February 28, 2013, 11:09 am

    ” So,in sum the Academy had Affleck” that about covers it. The other night Chris Matthews said the Argo win reflects the mood of the country. What hogwash. It showed the mood of the Academy committee Did you catch that short comment in his on stage rambling about the “poor people of Iran” hooey. A line right out of the neocons script.

    Professor Juan Cole wrote up quite the piece on the Argo win
    link to juancole.com
    It isn’t just that the memoir slights the massive contribution of the Canadian embassy and Canadian diplomats to the mission and plays up the relatively minor CIA role. (Virtually every good idea that contributed to the success of the rescue came from Canada, but somehow American movie audiences insist that it all has to be about us.) Nor that Britain’s important role is denied and even denigrated Nor is my main objection that a whole series of exciting events are invented that never occurred. It is that the entire context for these events is virtually absent and the Iranian characters are depicted as full of mindless rage.

    Although the film begins with an info-dump that explains that the US screwed over Iran by having the CIA overthrow the elected government in 1953 and then helped impose a royal dictatorship in the form of the restored shah, that part of the film is emotionally flat. It tells, it doesn’t show. It is tacked on. It does not intersect with the subsequent film in any significant way. It therefore has no emotional weight and does little to contextualize the Iranian characters (none of whose names I think we even learn).

  3. Avi_G.
    February 28, 2013, 11:57 am

    “This year’s films illuminated the tension and resentment of those living in the West Bank….”

    Yeah. Those darn resentful Palestinians.

    Of course, Jewish fanatics don’t live in colonies, on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank, as mainstream US media would have one believe. No. You see, they live in “Jewish neighborhoods.” So that leaves the resentful to be Palestinians.

    I don’t know if it was Affleck who came up with that nonsense or if the line was written for him. It’s hard to tell given his propaganda Oscar winner.

    One thing is for sure, though, Affleck is an empty shell. That’s probably why he can’t act on screen. His acting is rigid, lacking in emotion and expression. No insight.

    Who knows, perhaps one day he’ll discover a functioning brain hiding somewhere in that jaw of his.

    On a side note, I love how Hollywood actors know their place, vis-a-vis Jews in Hollywood. Clooney doesn’t touch the oppression of Palestinians but rushes to Darfur seeing as it’s an AIPAC-approved solidarity conflict.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      February 28, 2013, 12:58 pm

      Absolutely. I’m sure Clooney’s concern over Darfur is sincere, but we all know neither he nor anyone else in Hollywood would ever dare express a word of concern over Palestine. Not even Michael Moore, for all his friendship with Emad Burnat, would take on the Lobby directly.

      And yeah, Affleck has all the charisma and character of a Ken doll.

      • Avi_G.
        February 28, 2013, 3:37 pm

        The Angelina Jolies and the George Clooneys of the world can go to Tibet, go to Darfur, go to Haiti, and go to Africa to help starving children — all respectable causes — but they can’t touch the Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

        Look at Jolie’s squirming expression when she is asked yet another We’re the Perpetual Victims of the World™ question on Israeli TV:

        At the time, there were more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, some 120 of them were children held without charges under Administrative Detention.

        C’mon sing along with me to the tune of Don’t Cry for me Argentina:

        It won’t be easy, to hear me whine again, about my perpetual sense of victimhood. You won’t believe me, if I told you the truth that we’ve suffered so much, as we tried to resuscitate tortured Palestinians…

    • Chu
      February 28, 2013, 2:12 pm

      ‘Affleck is an empty shell. That’s probably why he can’t act on screen. His acting is rigid, lacking in emotion and expression. ‘
      His speech even felt empty and contrived when accepting his award into the big leagues of Hollywood. I agree there’s not much content behind the character. Watch the segment on Face the Nation with Bob Sheiffer and Affleck. It’s as if they are preening him for a future political seat.

      The Hollywood actors. When are we going to see the great pair ‘brangelina’ take a tour of the Gaza strip? This weakness of character, seen in many politicians as well, makes you realize the power of Zionism is like a secret cult that exists within the American realm. Remember when Bono tried to say something about Palestine at the Obama inauguration and cloaked it in between guitar riffs? Everyone is scared of the consequences that the powerful will turn of the money spigot and damage their careers.

      Someone said the other day how John Mearsheimer has not been asked to pen any pieces for the NYTimes, since ‘The Israeli Lobby’ . Prior he was asked nine of more times.

      • leenb
        March 3, 2013, 4:59 am

        To be completely fair to Angelina Jolie, she has visited Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. She has written about it in her travel book, saying she was moved that these children want to return to their homeland Palestine. It’s the media that has kind of put a ‘hush hush’ on it. When she visited the Palestinian refugees, they were simply indicated as ‘refugee camps’ or Iraqi refugees, which is not true.

    • ToivoS
      February 28, 2013, 2:18 pm

      Cloony is a fool to get involved in that Darfur mess. Darfur is an example of a civil war. In this case the original tension was between farmers and herders. This has historically been a problem in many places (remember the 19th century range wars in the American West). In Darfur the precipitating event was a prolonged drought coupled with too many people for the limited resources. Forces in the West saw an opportunity to divide another Muslim nation and took advantage. The holocaust museum in Washington DC helped stir up international support for the farmer faction in that war which led to SOS Powell to declare that the Sudan government had committed genocide.

      • piotr
        February 28, 2013, 7:26 pm

        I would slightly nit-pick that the situation is much more chaotic than farmer herder conflict. Some degree of violence was always endemic, perhaps most so between herders.* We know about cattle raids as rites of passage in Greek and Irish mythology, and in Sahel this tradition continues, but now spears are replaced with automatic weapons.

        * The most recent bloody incident in Darfur was a strife between Arab herder tribes with 500+ victims. link to nytimes.com

      • ToivoS
        February 28, 2013, 10:46 pm

        Of course the conflict is much more complicated than a simple herder-farmer dispute. In addition to that division there are many different tribes involved.

        That NYTs article you link to also perpetuates another myth: namely it is between Arabs and non-Arabs. In fact ethnically they are mostly black Africans (historically known as “Nubians”) that speak a number of different tribal dialects. Many also speak Arabic as first or second languages. The language spoken by the central government is Arabic but that does not mean they are Arabs.

      • gamal
        March 3, 2013, 4:11 am

        “The language spoken by the central government is Arabic but that does not mean they are Arabs.” some people in Sudan speak Arabic, as a first language, what other way of being an Arab is there, if its your first language, and has been historically, for say 300/400 hundred years i would contend that that makes you an Arab, its ok Arabs are allowed to come where they come from.

        Black is, granted surprisingly, not an ethnicity,

        As to Sudanese languages (and ehtnicities) check out this map, as a matter of interest without googling do you think you could name 2 other languages spoken in Sudan, other than Arabic, also which kinds of Arabic do they speak there. Sudan boasts about 200 living languages, and a brace of extinct ones. Could it be that Arabic is the lingua franca, and first language of Sudanese Arabs, Arabs by virtue of language like 97% of Arabs, it could be couldnt it. Sudan is not about Arab Imperialism however the internal conflict is very real and to call it tribal is to miss the societal nature of the confrontation, this kind of cod-imperialist analysis doesnt really elucidate much, except that imperialist history is easily grasped and entirely lacking in explanatory content, its tribes and ethnicities warring as thats what they do you, Sudan has a complex political history and you will never guess this, but there has been considerable interference in her internal affairs by external forces.

        link to muturzikin.com

    • jonrich111
      February 28, 2013, 6:16 pm

      “On a side note, I love how Hollywood actors know their place, vis-a-vis Jews in Hollywood.”

      Wow. Okay, let’s repeat tired and long debunked anti-Semitic tropes. Great. If Hollywood was controlled by the Jews, why did two films highly critical of the occupation get nominated for Best Documentary? If Jews control Hollywood, why is the intermarriage rate of TV and film Jewish characters nearly 100%? Why is it nearly impossible to find a Jewish character on TV that isn’t completely assimilated or whose Jewish identity is only brought up to be used as a butt of a joke?

      • Avi_G.
        February 28, 2013, 11:54 pm

        jonrich111 says:
        February 28, 2013 at 6:16 pm

        “On a side note, I love how Hollywood actors know their place, vis-a-vis Jews in Hollywood.”

        Wow. Okay, let’s repeat tired and long debunked anti-Semitic tropes.

        Debunked how? When?

        I’d like to see Hollywood produce a film that is actually honest about the occupation of Palestine. That you cite a nomination doesn’t prove anything.

        It’s easy to nominate a movie that’s already been made using foreign funds. Investing in a movie and making it is an entirely different affair.

        So why is it that the likes of Affleck can get funding for their anti-Iran propaganda films, but not a single Palestinian can get funding? Explain how not a single studio has ever made a film about the Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

        Why is it nearly impossible to find a Jewish character on TV that isn’t completely assimilated or whose Jewish identity is only brought up to be used as a butt of a joke?

        So up is down? No I get it, I really do. I mean, who am I going to trust, your claims or my own lying eyes, right?

        You see, your response is emblematic of the commonly held view that any criticism of Jews is an immediate jump to anti-Semitism. And then you chime in with your subjective view that is as honest as the Neo-Con view about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Up is down.

        The paranoid, eternal victim cannot wrap his head around SOME criticism. It’s ALL or NOTHING with you.

        It’s as though you have an ON and OFF switch, and there can be no degree of criticism in between. No daylight. (Where have I heard that term before? Oh yeah, now I remember; I hear it every time an American politician pledges allegiance to Israel).

        Anyway, with reactionaries like you, Jews either control Hollywood or they don’t. God forbid someone should point to a degree of dominance in Hollywood, not absolute control, just dominance.

        Let’s set all that aside and consider for a moment why Marlon Brando said what he said about Hollywood, or why Ricky Gervais said what he said about Hollywood, or why Vanessa Redgrave was banished for years. Are they all anti-Semites?

  4. Citizen
    February 28, 2013, 12:25 pm

    In the earlier article on this regarding Oscars and the Ted Skit, the thread included mentioned that another thing you need for a successful career, besides pro-Israel cred, is be ready to whatever it takes to satisfy the pedophiles, which is as big a problem in Hollywood as it is in the Catholic Church (and orthodox Jewish community). 2/23 Issue of W’s Movie Issue includes Afleck giving us a sample of what he & Matt Damon dealt with at auditions to get ahead as young post-Mickely Mouse Club aspiring actors in Hollywood:

    “We auditioned for the part of Robin in the first Batman. We went up to New York and auditioned in situations that were a little sketchy and shady. A guy would say, ‘We’re not sure what we’re calling the movie yet. Why don’t you lie down?’ We were naive and young and left saying, ‘He seemed like a nice guy. I wonder if we’ll get it. I think my hand job was pretty good.'”

  5. Rusty Pipes
    February 28, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Affleck recited his lines. But who wrote the lines and put together the documentary montages?

  6. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    February 28, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Affleck is a complete tool, but I very much doubt he wrote the blurb about the nominees himself. You have the Academy to blame for that. Speaking of which, the use of the neutral term ‘West Bank’ is a nice way for the Acedemy to avoid having to hold their collective noses and utter the word ‘Palestine’.

    • Avi_G.
      February 28, 2013, 1:15 pm

      Speaking of which, the use of the neutral term ‘West Bank’ is a nice way for the Acedemy to avoid having to hold their collective noses and utter the word ‘Palestine’.

      It would be nice if Hollywood actually acknowledged the reality that the West Bank is under a military occupation. “Palestine” is safe because it’s part of the two-state paradigm that remains a convenient fall-back position for many hypocrites in the mainstream US. “Occupation” remains a taboo word, much like “Apartheid”.

      The irony is that within Israel, the occupation is an acknowledged part of the reality. You won’t hear some apologist screeching about the use of the term “occupied” in Israeli discourse, for example. That trite response is reserved for American discourse where “disputed” is the favored euphemism.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        February 28, 2013, 2:22 pm

        Oh god I DETEST that mealy-mouthed term ‘disputed’. It’s used so often by hasbarists as a way to claim that this is all just a little border dispute which could easily be settled if both parties just agreed to ‘negotiations’. But those damn Palestinians keep ‘setting pre-conditions’ so the Israelis, much as it pains them, just have to go back to building on ‘disputed’ land.

        Perhaps the one thing I can say is that, awful though ‘disputed’ is, it’s not quite as appalling as ‘administered’, as in ‘the West Bank is under Israeli administration’. Yup. Complete with torture centres and armed ‘settlers’. That kind of ‘administration’.

    • Chu
      February 28, 2013, 2:15 pm

      lol, AIPAC probably wrote the damn thing, and he (like any other political hack)
      said where and when. Bark like a dog, Ben… and get your cookie.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    February 28, 2013, 3:40 pm

    RE: Affleck . . . went right by the creative bravery that’s real in 5 Broken Cameras: Bil’in’s endlessly inventive Resistance. He distorted a struggle in Occupied Palestine, involving the actual land-owners’ peaceful interference with theft and murder, as peevishness by transients with no claim to the land. ~ Kneedler

    MY COMMENT: Of course, Affleck was just reciting the script that the “Academy” had given him to recite. That script was written for, and approved by, “The Academy®”; and according to Guy Davidi, industry insiders warned him that pressure was being exerted on the Academy to stop either 5 Broken Cameras or The Gatekeepers from winning the Oscar® for Best Documentary. I think it is safe to assume that this pressure also affected what “The Academy®” scripted to be said about these two films.

    SEE: “Pictures speak volumes in Oscar-nominated Israeli films”, By Jonathan Cook, Israeli Occupation Archive, 2/20/13

    [EXCERPT] Israelis have been revelling in the prospect of an Oscar night triumph next week, with two Israeli-financed films among the five in the running for Best Documentary. But the country’s right-wing government is reported to be quietly fuming that the films, both of which portray Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in a critical light, have garnered so much attention following their nominations.
    Guy Davidi, the Israeli co-director of 5 Broken Cameras, one of the finalists, says industry insiders had warned him that pressure was being exerted on the Academy to stop the films winning the award.
    “Many people in Hollywood are working very hard to make sure that neither film wins,” he says. “From Israel’s point of view, an Oscar would be a public relations disaster and mean more people get to see our films.”

    Davidi’s film is a searing account by the Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat of a six-year period in his West Bank village during which the residents non-violently protested an Israeli wall that cut off their farmland.
    Israeli soldiers are shown beating, tear-gassing and shooting the villagers and solidarity activists. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to jonathan-cook.net

  8. W.Jones
    February 28, 2013, 7:53 pm

    Oklahoma, 1845: “This year’s daguerreotype illuminated the tension and resentment of those living in the newly formed Cherokee reservation….”

Leave a Reply