The Viewing Booth – Are You Lying to Me?

REVIEW
by Sandra Kuznetsova
08.10.2020
On September 24-27, Moskino cinemas hosted the 2nd annual Panorama arthouse festival consisting of major European film festivals' programs. The leitmotif of this issue of Panorama was media criticism. And the first film we brought you is the Israeli documentary The Viewing Booth (2019) by Ra'anan Alexandrovich.
The film is shot in a specially designed viewing booth installed at Temple University in Philadelphia. This is a dark room with a monitor where an archive of documentary videos describing the life of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories is available. A part of this archive is the materials created or uploaded to the web by the Israeli non-profit organization B'Tselem which collects information about human rights violations in the occupied and annexed territories of Israel (mainly by the Israeli military against the Palestinians). The other part is the documentation created either by the Israeli military itself, or by Israelis in the territories, or by diplomatic representatives.
A camera installed in the booth captures the main character of the film, Maia levy, a Jewish student living in the United States who is sympathetic to the Israeli authorities, as we will learn later, watching these videos and sharing her comments trying to make sense of what is happening. Her reactions are watched by the director and, accordingly, the audience of the film.




The film begins as a record of a neutral sociological experiment, but behind the apparent scientific neutrality hides a certain bias: Ra'anan Alexandrovich sympathizes with the Palestinians. This might have been masterful propaganda, but for one thing.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is an ambiguous, complex and certainly interesting topic, but it is only an occasion to explore in this film how the image of another person's pain encodes the viewer's perception, as well as how a documentary image that exposes certain processes affects beliefs, the historical process, politics, etc. The director decided to turn the camera on the viewer and create a documentary that was an attempt to explore the viewer's experience of non-fiction material. Ra'anan Alexandrovich described the findings in the article "Maia and the Boundaries of the Frame".
Maia is no stranger to compassion: in one of the rectangles of the split screen, an Israeli soldier hit a small child, and in parallel — in another — a noticeable tension ran over the Respondent's full-face. But Maia doesn't jump to conclusions asking the question: "Can this stream of images lie to me? Without context, I see only a short period of time enclosed in a frame, but I don't know anything about what preceded it and I have no idea what happened next". The director's planned unambiguous emotional persuasiveness crumbles when confronted with a cynical and analytical view.
And that's why it's worth a look. Maia asks questions that should be asked to everything that is positioned as a documentary and forms a certain opinion. The Viewing Booth is the most difficult for the audience to perceive and open to interpretations as it tries to provoke critical viewing.
 
The Viewing Booth – Are You Lying to Me?

REVIEW
by Sandra Kuznetsova
08.10.2020
On September 24-27, Moskino cinemas hosted the 2nd annual Panorama arthouse festival consisting of major European film festivals' programs. The leitmotif of this issue of Panorama was media criticism. And the first film we brought you is the Israeli documentary The Viewing Booth (2019) by Ra'anan Alexandrovich.
The film is shot in a specially designed viewing booth installed at Temple University in Philadelphia. This is a dark room with a monitor where an archive of documentary videos describing the life of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories is available. A part of this archive is the materials created or uploaded to the web by the Israeli non-profit organization B'Tselem which collects information about human rights violations in the occupied and annexed territories of Israel (mainly by the Israeli military against the Palestinians). The other part is the documentation created either by the Israeli military itself, or by Israelis in the territories, or by diplomatic representatives.

A camera installed in the booth captures the main character of the film, Maia levy, a Jewish student living in the United States who is sympathetic to the Israeli authorities, as we will learn later, watching these videos and sharing her comments trying to make sense of what is happening. Her reactions are watched by the director and, accordingly, the audience of the film.
The film begins as a record of a neutral sociological experiment, but behind the apparent scientific neutrality hides a certain bias: Ra'anan Alexandrovich sympathizes with the Palestinians. This might have been masterful propaganda, but for one thing.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is an ambiguous, complex and certainly interesting topic, but it is only an occasion to explore in this film how the image of another person's pain encodes the viewer's perception, as well as how a documentary image that exposes certain processes affects beliefs, the historical process, politics, etc. The director decided to turn the camera on the viewer and create a documentary that was an attempt to explore the viewer's experience of non-fiction material. Ra'anan Alexandrovich described the findings in the article "Maia and the Boundaries of the Frame".

Maia is no stranger to compassion: in one of the rectangles of the split screen, an Israeli soldier hit a small child, and in parallel — in another — a noticeable tension ran over the Respondent's full-face. But Maia doesn't jump to conclusions asking the question: "Can this stream of images lie to me? Without context, I see only a short period of time enclosed in a frame, but I don't know anything about what preceded it and I have no idea what happened next". The director's planned unambiguous emotional persuasiveness crumbles when confronted with a cynical and analytical view.
And that's why it's worth a look. Maia asks questions that should be asked to everything that is positioned as a documentary and forms a certain opinion. The Viewing Booth is the most difficult for the audience to perceive and open to interpretations as it tries to provoke critical viewing.
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