How does one shoot a documentary on a conflict which has been raging for ages and for which there is no end in sight? Consider filmmaker Isidore Rosmarin's Blood And Tears: The Arab-Israeli Conflict a work in progress. That said, it's certainly an insightful and interesting piece that does a fine job of enlightening us to what the real issues are without pointing fingers too many fingers or coming right out and bluntly laying blame on any one side. That's not to say there isn't a bias here, but it's not a particularly obvious one.
Isidore's film runs a quick seventy-four minutes in length but every one of those minutes counts as he's packed the documentary with interviews and archival clips that demonstrate and elaborate on points made by both sides in the ongoing war. The film begins by explaining the religious significance of the land over which the two factions are fighting, and then by explaining the creation of Israel after the events of the Second World War.
From there, the film more or less flip-flops by laying out interviews with one person from the Israeli side and then one person on the Palestinian side. We hear from members of the Hamas and of the PLO and we hear from Israeli politicians and military leaders. An Arab doctor explains his thoughts on Israeli retaliation while an Israeli woman explains how difficult it was for her to start over after a suicide bomber ruined her life. We're bombarded with equal parts tragedy and strategy, each interview and news clips shedding a little more light on the situation than the last.
That said, as interesting and poignant as much of this material is, Rosmarin's decision to include interviews with Joseph Farrah of World Net Daily is questionable when it's insanely obvious that the man is a tool for the far right. Former Presidential candidate Gary Bauer, another obviously slanted politician and activist, also shows up on camera here. While these two men are obviously very intelligent and have much to say on the subject (thus making their inclusion valuable) there's no attempt made to really give any time to any American politicos on the opposite side of the fence. While this doesn't necessarily sway the documentary as pro-Arab or pro-Israeli in a literal sense, it does slant the aspects of American involvement in the conflict just enough that it does show a bit of a bias. That said, the bias isn't strong enough to really harm the film that much and what remains manages to stay on target for the most part.
Ultimately the documentary asks as many questions as it answers. It is unable to really provide any resolutions (which is understandable enough, really), rather it simply sheds some light on various aspects and participants involved in the conflict. Unfortunately the more we learn about the problems occurring in the volatile region, the more we realize that there isn't going to be an easy solution presented any time in the near future.
Blood And Tears hits DVD in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The documentary was shot on video and uses archival clips from various sources such as news reports and what not and as such, the quality of the image varies quite a bit. The newer interview footage isn't bad, though it is soft and lacks a lot of fine detail and most of the clips are in reasonably good shape. That said, a few are rough. Granted, some of this material was shot under horrible conditions and some of it is a little old so this is to be expected somewhat. On the whole, the documentary isn't going to blow you away with its sterling video quality but it is perfectly watchable and the disc is properly encoded meaning that there aren't any big problems with edge enhancement or mpeg compression artifacts.
The only audio option on the DVD is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. Most of the film is presented in English though some interviews are presented in Arabic and in these cases we're either given English language subtitles or the interviewee is dubbed into English. The subtitles are more effective as sometimes the dubbing is a little bit awkward but aside from that there's not much to complain about here in terms of audio quality. With the bulk of the track made up of dialogue there isn't really a need for anything more than a 2.0 mix and this one handles things nicely. Everyone is fairly easy to understand and there are no issues with hiss or distortion.
The main supplements on this release are a series of deleted interviews: Dr. Ziad Abu Amr - Gaza Legislator (1:23), Dr. Akbar - Scholar Of Islam American University (1:04), Alan Dershowitz - Attorney And Civil Rights Advocate (3:22), Ambassador Dore Gold - Advisor To The Israeli Prime Minister (2:48), Dr. Bernard Lewis - Scholar Of Islam Princeton University (3:00) and Ziad Abu Ziad - Palestinian Legislator (3:01). All of the interviews are presented in fullframe and they briefly elaborate on issues touched upon in the feature itself and as such they don't add a whole lot more to the feature considering what is already there but there are a few interesting points made in this section which makes it worth checking out.
Rounding out the extra features are some classy menus, a trailer for the feature and few trailers for other Think Film releases and a chapter selection option.
Blood And Tears is an interesting and detailed examination of an ongoing conflict that affects us all. It's presented in a straight forward manner and does an admirable job of presenting both sides of the case without spending too much time taking sides or laying the blame on any one faction, instead relying on simply relaying the facts and presenting them as such. The film doesn't have a lot of replay value but it's very definitely worth watching - consider this one a solid rental, particularly for those with an interest in politics, world affairs or history.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.