I’m pretty sure that this short has a political message that’s completely gone over my head. Not surprising, since it tackles the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which is such a complete clusterfuck of a situation that it’s one of the few subjects in the whole of the entire universe that me and my big mouth have no opinion on.
In any case, I’m not sure I should read too much into a film’s subtext at the expense of its main storyline. A film is about what it’s about, and should be viewable as such. If you need to solve it like some sort of Machiavellian puzzle to enjoy yourself, then it’s failed at its job miserably.
The story is about a young Jewish boy called Tam who is dragged over to a computer and made to watch one of those crazy internet videos by his two older brothers. I’m guessing they couldn’t find Two girls, One cup so they settled on next best thing and show him a Hamas “kid’s” show.
We watch along with Tam as the costumed character Hashim the Camel, a kind of low-rent Big Bird, is at first interrogated, and then shot by an Israeli Militant. What’s especially messed up is that I’ve seen the real show that this is based on – thankfully we only get a recreation – and the depiction here is actually sort of tame in comparison. The real show is like a super low budget, anti-Semitic version of H.R. Pufnstuf where everyone says “Death to Israel” and “Alahuh Akbar” like it’s punctuation to every sentence.
Perhaps it’s not the filmmaker’s wish, although I hope it is, but Hamas-ster of the House functions as one hell of a creepy mood piece. Kids don’t see things in “Us VS Them” political terms, which is why militants need less-than-subtle propaganda like Hashim the Camel to twist children’s fragile little minds to their cause. Instead, kids see things in terms of scary and not-scary. Any child, I don’t care where they were born or what God they pray to, suspects that there are monsters secretly lurking everywhere. They’re just not sure where exactly. That’s why so much of their lives revolve around trying to find out where they could be hiding while it’s still daylight out. So, once the sun sets, every creak on the floor late at night holds the possibility of some terrible doom coming to get them. Poor little bastards don’t know that sometimes the worst monsters come with open arms, wearing a smiling human face.
It’s not surprising then that after having seen the rather messed up “kids” show, the boy is visited by Hashim, alive and well… sort of. This is where the short’s creepiness factor goes up by a factor of about a million and where it begins to shine. Because, instead of being afraid of Hashim, the kid becomes his friend, and you don’t have to be a child psychiatrist to see how messed up this is, even before the kid says: “You put the Pal in Palestine.”
I had a conversation with my wife about it afterwards. My take is that the Jewish kid making friends with the imaginary Palestinian camel symbolizes peace between the two cultures, and a rejection of hate and fear. Her take is that he’s been recruited to the Palestinian terrorist cause. I think she’s being too harsh, she thinks I’m a softhearted softheaded nincompoop.
She has a point.
I thought a second viewing of the short might clear it up for me, but it doesn’t. Maybe it’s because I find it so hard to relate to religion and nationalism and hate, and so easy to relate to cowering under my sheets as imaginary boogeyman gibber on the edge of my bed that I can’t take the political themes seriously.
In a weird way, a child’s fears and politics are similar. They’re both made up and they both involve being afraid of imaginary things. It’s just that politics kill motherfuckers, while the monster under the bed only causes a few bad dreams.
In the end though, monsters may wear human faces, but if you tear off that face you’ll find that the monster itself is just another mask, and underneath that mask is a little scared boy. Round and round like that it goes, mask after mask, all the way down the rabbit hole.
I began this review by saying I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and I believe that nothing I’ve written here resolves any of my feelings about it thus far. All I know is that there are monsters and there are men, and that the children are afraid of them.
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