After already acting to cancel government funding for the Al Midan Theater in Haifa due to controversy surrounding the play "A Parallel Time," Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev set her sights on another venue, the Jerusalem Film Festival, who's organizers folded to the minister's demands on Tuesday and agreed not to screen the film "Beyond the Fear," centered on Yitzhak Rabin's murderer Yigal Amir.
In light of threats from Regev on Tuesday morning that the festival would be held without support or funds from the government if the film was shown, organizers agreed to have a special screening outside of the festival, a few days prior. "Beyond the Fear" will still take part in the festival's official competition.
The film sparked exptreme tensions in the world of culture over the last week. Shimon Peres, called on Monday to stop the screening of the documentary, asking, "Let's say someone wakes up tomorrow and uses the freedom of speech to offer to murder someone - is this the freedom of speech?"
Regev responded to the organizer's decision saying, "I welcome to decision of the festival's administration to adopt the proposal not to screen the movie about Yigal Amir within the framework of the festival. I also call on the public to stay away from watching the film even when it's screened outside of the festival."
Festival organizers said in a statement that while they had reached a satisfactory compromise that upholds their belief in the freedom of speech, "Those who oppose the screening of the film denounced from the beginning because of the subject matter without even watching it. We oppose to the idea that it's allowed to denounce a artistic creation on the basis of the subject matter."
So what is the movie about?
The documentary "Beyond the Fear" has caused an uproar in Israel, despite the fact that it has not been screened. The controversial film follows the relationship between Yigal Amir, who murdered then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and his wife Larisa Trembovler.
"Beyond the Fear" is a Latvian production with partial Russian funding and was co-directed by Herz Frank, a noted Jewish, Latvian-born documentarian. He began filming Trembolver about five years ago with his co-director, Maria Krevchenko. After Frank passed away two years ago, Krevchenko completed the project. It premiered at the Riga Film Festival in December, and is now making the rounds at festivals around the world.
Last weekend, the film was screened at a film festival in Moscow named after Andrei Tarkovsky, winning a prize. It was also shown in the prestigious Hot Docs documentary festival in Toronto, Canada. Local critics (who are Jewish, incidentally) who watched it actually had a positive impression. They told Ynet that "Beyond the Fear" is a complex work that uncovers a disturbing and fascinating reality without glorifying its subjects or justifying them.
A positive review by Jordan Adler for Toronto Film Scene called the film "an intimate, insightful doc that reveals the other side of tabloid fodder." The review also praised the fact the film "exposes the stark differences in opinion throughout Israel… At its best, the film explores this complicated romance without… sensationalism. "
Adler told Ynet that the film "documents the relationship between Amir and Trembolver, and the media response to the widely covered and talked-about union. The directors managed to get close and personal interviews with Trembolver, her relatives and members of the Amir family, and so hear their views regarding the unusual couple.
"In my opinion, the film does not support Amir or the murder of Rabin," Adler continued. The film's greatest weakness is the confusing explanation it gives regarding the events leading to the murder… Although the film touches on a sensational subject, it succeeds in being reasonable and objective at many points. I don't recall that there are expressions of Frank and Krevchenko's personal opinions, but you have to remember that the story comes from many different angles."
Jason Gorber also reviewed the film at Hot Docs. His review for Dork Shelf called it "a strong, complex, engaging film that’s both a fine piece of journalism as well as a deeply introspective work".
Gorber also noted the filmmakers' struggle to "avoid exploitation of the situation, aggrandizement of the crime or over simplification of the events in question."
"Often documentaries occupy this strange middle ground, a space between the attempt at uncovering some sort of objective truth versus the intentions and biases of the filmmakers that in either subtle or overt ways shape the narrative," Gorber wrote. "'Beyond the Fear' tackles this tension in both subtle and overt ways, telling the story of Yigal Amir and those that surround him."
Gorber went on to say that "Rather than detailing Amir’s crime or his own beliefs, we’re led through the story via the most tabloid of tales, following the woman who fought to have relations with the imprisoned man.
"For audiences outside of Israel the story will be at times shocking, but even for those well versed in the events there’s plenty of revelations that get beyond the sordid headlines," he added.