Given the current immigration debates, it’s virtually impossible not to see amazing and shameful parallels in this doc about Palestinians working illegally in Israel. Groups of men live in improvised camps in the hills overlooking the towns where they work putting up luxury apartment buildings. They must constantly stay on guard against the Israeli border patrols, but employers clearly don’t ask too many questions. The ironies don’t need to be pointed out, and Haar wisely lets the bigger issues emerge organically in this unnarrated doc in the vérité tradition.
The Palestinian men chat unself-consciously even with a camera in their midst, gently teasing each other and sharing confidences. But just when it all starts to feel like a camping trip, Haar snaps us back to reality. In a heartbreaking moment, one of the laborers recalls how his father, who also worked in construction, was killed by an Israeli who carried a grudge against all Palestinians because his son died in the conflict.
A few moments seem almost too perfectly ironic to be true, as when a few of the men encounter a group of Israeli kids who have built a ramshackle clubhouse out of discarded lumber that looks distressingly like the men’s camp farther up the hill. But that’s a small quibble; without lecturing us, this film speaks volumes about the messy collision of economics and politics.