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November 14, 2021

Denver Film Festival - The Devil's Drivers


Daniel Carsenty and Mohammed Abugeth - 2021

Something not always discussed is that part of Israel's labor force is made up of Palestinians from the disputed territories. Even those Palestinians who have legal permits to work in Israel are subject to slower checkpoints or border closings. There is also the illegal work force that is smuggled into Israel by a group of drivers who use roundabout routes and dodge the Israeli army.

The workers attempt to cross the border for what ever work they can get because there is little available work available in the Palestinian territories, plus the pay when they are able to get it is better. Likewise, for the drivers, it is preferable to unemployment or low paying jobs available locally. The documentary was filmed over the course of five years following a small group of current and former drivers. Part was filmed in Jenba, in the southern territory that has not yet been walled in.

Is it possible to make any kind of film that deals with Israeli-Palestinian relations without any kind of bias? Probably not. While there is discussion of some of the most onerous rules imposed by the Israeli government, most of the ire is directed towards the army, which acts with impunity, disregarding edicts by Israel's Supreme Court. There is also some drama with one of the drivers arrested for allegedly transporting two cousins who shot and murdered patrons in a Tel Aviv shop.

Most of the camerawork was done by the German, Carsenty, riding shotgun with the drivers. It is a rough ride across desert roads. Carsenty also puts himself in possible danger when one of the cars is stopped by the army. There is also I-phone footage taken by the drivers and family members. Also included is a look at a Bedouin family, sheep herders, whose property is part of the route, a reminder that there is a mix of Arab cultures in the region.

That the film is a sympathetic portrayal of its subjects is a given. Any demand for some kind of idealized sense of objectivity is impossible. There is also some historical context provided, some of which suggests that some of the current problems came following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and Shiimon Peres' decision to not follow the Oslo Accords. My overall assessment is that there is something to be gleaned from viewing The Devil's Drivers beyond what is made available from any news source.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 14, 2021 07:10 AM