Telluride 2012 Review: THE ATTACK Pierces Middle-Eastern Conflicts

Eric D. Snider, Featured Critic

The complicated situation in Israel, with its uneasy peace and frequent bursts of non-peace between Jews and Arabs, has given rise to numerous compelling stories, and will no doubt continue to do so for as long as there is conflict in that region (i.e., forever). The Attack, a sobering drama by Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri (Lila Says), explores the unique personal pain of an Arab doctor living in Tel Aviv, and emerges as one of the more piercing pieces of fiction on this subject.

The film begins with our doctor, Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman), a well-respected surgeon at a Tel Aviv hospital, receiving a prestigious medical award -- the first Arab to do so, he notes in his gracious acceptance speech. His admiring audience of fellow doctors, nearly all of them Jewish, chuckles appreciatively when he says that "every Jew is a bit of an Arab, and every Arab must admit he has some Jew in him." In other words, we're all more alike than we are different.

Not everyone is at peace with that concept, however. The next day, a suicide bomber kills 17 people and wounds several others, the victims rushed to the hospital where Amin works. This is devastating, but it gets worse for Amin: investigators believe his wife, Sihem (Reymonde Amsellem), was the bomber. If she was, this is absolutely the first inkling Amin ever had of her extremist sympathies.

As he tries to understand what has happened, Amin is forced to rethink what he knew (or thought he knew) about his wife and his own relatives, who live outside Tel Aviv in the Palestinian territories. He is an Arab, though not a practicing Muslim, and while he's become assimilated into Tel Aviv, he's forgotten that many of his Arab kindred are hostile toward Israel. Some would consider Sihem an honorable martyr.

Ali Suliman, star of the similarly themed (and Oscar-nominated) Paradise Now, brings somber intensity to the role of Amin, taking the character through most of the stages of grief before our eyes. As director, Doueiri (who wrote the screenplay with Joelle Touma, adapted from Yasmina Khadra's novel L'attentat) prods us to consider the complexities of Amin's situation: Arab, yet living among Jews; sickened by the idea of mass murder, yet understanding of the ideology behind it. The Attack puts a human face on what is for many of us an abstract, faraway problem, bringing it home to us in terms we can all relate to.


The Attack screened at the Telluride Film Festival and will play at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Cohen Media Group and Focus World will team to release the film theatrically in North American in 2013.

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  • Deftworker

    Its good to more of these films that deal with Israel-Palestine conflict. I just hope it isn't just another case of an Arab director selling out especially with this plot of a non-Muslim Arab who is at peace with Israel who has "forgotten that many of his Arab kindred are hostile toward Israel" (hmm i wonder why?) having to deal with his families "extremist sympathies".

    Sounds very dubious indeed, but will check it just in case...

  • urip32

    an Arab director selling out?? perhaps an Arab director explaining and justifying the crime of suicide attacks against civilians?

    I have not seen this movie - but why do all movie directors and journalists always try to "consider the complexities" and try to understand the motives of Palestinian suicide attackers against Israelis, but never write articles or make movies explaining the motives of suicide attackers against non-Jews in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia and many other countries?

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