Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

"You Can't Film Here": Queer Political Fantasy and Thin Critique of Israeli Occupation in the Bubble

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

"You Can't Film Here": Queer Political Fantasy and Thin Critique of Israeli Occupation in the Bubble

Article excerpt

Résumé : Cet article défend l'idée que The Bubble, film qu'Eytan Fox a réalisé en 2006, fait une critique diluée et décevante de la société israélienne. La fascination, perceptible dans la production, pour la médiation cinématique, pour la politique de la représentation, et pour la politique-fiction apparaît glisser subrepticement dans des invocations racistes habituelles à une culture palestinienne arriérée, dans une forme néolibérale de discours sur la politique identitaire gay appuyée par des tropes sur la représentation et la visibilité et dans une approche du conflit Israélo-palestinien qui perpétue un cycle de violence. Cette analyse fait naître un questionnement à propos de certains enjeux contemporains relatifs aux films politiques et à la critique médiatique, particulièrement en ce qui concerne la façon de réagir à un cinéma qui anticipe la critique d'un discours politique qu'il prétend lui même critiquer mais dont il reste malgré tout complice.

"Do you know what it's like to be gay over there?"

Excerpt from conversation in The Bubble (Eytan Fox, 2006)

Seated at a table in hip Sheinken Street café Ella and Orna's, two Israeli patrons discuss contemporary life in Tel Aviv. Arguing with the man she is seated with about his characterization of Tel Aviv as "a bubble," the woman asks "what, and the kibbutz wasn't a bubble? West Bank settlements aren't a bubble?" While she agrees, "nothing here is real," she still wonders, "how can you tell in real time what's real and what's a bubble?" Overtly referencing the title of Eytan Fox's 2006 film, this marginal dialogue hints at the The Bubble's overall production of a deceptive, thin critique of Israeli occupation. I argue that such a critique pervades the film's fascination with cinematic mediation, representational politics, and political fantasy. As metaphor, "the bubble" invokes visibility, flexibility, and boundaries, topics I engage with in their relation to contemporary IsraeliPalestinian politics. Smuggled in through The Bubble's thin layer of political critique of contemporary Israeli society are familiar invocations of racialized Palestinian cultural backwardness and rigidity, a neo-liberal gay identity politics undergirded by particular tropes of representation and visibility, and a reiteration of a cycleof-violence approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My reading of The Bubble builds on previous critiques of the film and Fox's larger body of work, as well as the recent Israeli state investment in gay Israeli cinema and queer politics in Israel/Palestine. I also raise questions about the contemporary stakes of political film and media critique more broadly. As suggested by the café conversation, The Bubble invites viewers to make distinctions between "what's real" and "what's a bubble," and to engage in this as a political practice in the context of the film's narrative. Yet how does one critique a film that anticipates and pre-emptively responds to the political discourse that it nevertheless contributes to? From the beginning, The Bubble links political possibility and foreclosure to sites of mediation and representation, presenting critics with the challenge of avoiding falling prey to the film's own logic of exposure and revelation-its distinction between "real" and "bubble."

In the first few seconds of The Bubble, an Israeli soldier approaches the camera, announces "this is a restricted area; you can't film here," and momentarily places his hand on the lens, obscuring the visual frame (fig. 1). The soldier speaks directly to the spectator insofar as our vision in this opening shot is aligned with the subjective camera of the three activist-reporters determined to film at this Israeli West Bank checkpoint. White lines in the corners of the frame indicate the videographer's perspective and distinguish it from the unmarked continuity style that constitutes the film's primary narrative diegesis. Activist and news video documentation reappear several times throughout the film, underscoring the film's implication that representation and visibility are critical terms in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. …

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