Movie review: Notes to Eternity

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From the documentary Notes to Eternity.
From the documentary Notes to Eternity.

This locally made crowd-funded documentary, completed over a period of 10 years, bills itself as "a meditation on the Israel-Palestine conflict", a choice of words that is as perhaps as reflective of its pace as its style.

It's packed with detail and takes a commendably long view of the issues, though it makes no pretence that it is offering a balanced perspective.

Unabashedly conceived as a corrective to the dominant Israeli, not to say Zionist, narrative, it offers as our guides four main "characters", three of whom are Jews and trenchant critics of Israel: Noam Chomsky, who first started speaking out about this subject in 1962; the often wild-eyed Norman Finkelstein, who calls himself "the only Jew to be banned from Israel"; Harvard political economist Sara Roy.

The fourth is the veteran Beirut-based journo Robert Fisk, and Finkelstein's interpreter, Musa Abu Hashhash, a Palestinian worker for an Israeli human rights group, makes illuminating appearances.

The clarity and comprehensiveness of the vision are impressive, but Cordery has gathered a massive amount of material, and the film is handicapped by her unwillingness to leave stuff out.

In repeated long sequences the camera travels - through London, say, or down a corridor - when that movement advances the film not a bit.

When Fisk tells us that the Lone Ranger theme was one of his Desert Island Discs picks, the only way it can be relevant is to paint him as self-regarding, which is surely not her intention.

Meanwhile and conversely, the Balfour Declaration is referred to as important, but we are not told what it declared; and graffiti on the West Bank wall are shown in close-ups too fleeting to read.

All this adds up to a film that risks trespassing on the viewer's indulgence and being an artefact for the already knowledgeable. Given the enduring importance of the subject matter, that's a shame.

Verdict: Comprehensive and long-winded


Director: Sarah Cordery

Running time: 140 mins

Rating: M (violence and content that may disturb)

- NZ Herald

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