Check Point

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An ambulance is stopped, and the sick people inside brought out to explain their ailments. A mother is separated from her very young children. Young Palestinians laugh and throw snowballs at Israeli soldiers, who jovially respond in kind. One Israeli soldier harasses a pretty Palestinian girl.

Another refers to the Arabs as “animals,” and suggests the documentary crew is making a film for the Discovery Channel. Palestinians wait in the pouring rain while an Israeli soldier eats his lunch. Another young soldier gets into a prolonged argument with a Palestinian man because he’d told the man an hour earlier that he would be able to cross back over the checkpoint to return home, and now a curfew is in effect.

After his superior reluctantly lets the man through, the embarrassed soldier turns to the filmmaker and pleads, “Try to make me look good…not like the bad guy.” Language barriers constantly interfere with the soldiers’ ability to do their jobs. “It’s not my decision,” is a constant refrain as they turn people away. Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir once served his army reserve duty as a checkpoint guard, which was what inspired him to make this documentary, Checkpoint.

For 80 minutes, Shamir simply shows us videotape of what happens at the various checkpoints that the Israeli government operates, which are in place to regulate the travel of Palestinians, purportedly in an effort to combat terrorism. The documentary uses no narration, and the soldiers and Palestinians at the checkpoints are never identified. The subtitles simply tell the audience where the checkpoint being videotaped is located.

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