Rachel

Movies, Documentary
4 out of 5 stars
Rachel

 

There are two vital questions at the center of Simone Bitton's trenchant, tragic look at the 2003 death of Rachel Corrie, an American activist killed in the Gaza Strip. Given that the 23-year-old was hit by an Israeli bulldozer while she and fellow International Solidarity Movement idealists blocked troops from demolishing Palestinian houses, the first one is obvious: Was this merely a mistake or an act of malice? Rachel's peers, her parents, Gaza residents, Israeli Defense Forces advocates and even one of the vehicle's operators offer testimonies; eyewitness photos and suspiciously edited military surveillance footage offer clues, if not clarity. Which brings us to question number two: How do you not turn this into either an inadvertent snuff film or another simplified tribute to martyrdom?

You do it by being a thorough documentarian, and while the director doesn't hide her sympathies, she leaves remarkably few stones unturned in a dogged search for answers. As a work of near-objective, old-school journalism---talk to all parties, gather the facts, cover every possible angle---Rachel is an example of how to tell a complicated, controversial story without sacrificing humanity, heart or a sense of horror. That is, until a twentysomething ISM member starts earnestly rapping (!) about Corrie's demise---an example of both literal and metaphorical tone deafness that couldn't be more tasteless.

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By: David Fear

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