The Attack

It is a shocking act of violence and betrayal. A day after Dr. Amin Jaafari, a Palestinian surgeon, receives a prestigious award from his Jewish colleagues, his wife, Siham, explodes a bomb in a crowded Tel Aviv restaurant, killing 17 people, 11 of them children.

“What’s wrong with those people?” Jaafari wonders as he works to save lives, hours before receiving the call that brings him to the hospital to identify the shattered remains of his wife. It’s a telling remark, part of the “us versus them” mindset that prevails everywhere, nowhere more pointedly than in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

After undergoing days of sleep deprivation and interrogation, Jaafari is absolved of complicity in his wife’s act. But he is left with a haunting question: how could he not know that the woman he loved and shared his life with was capable of such slaughter? The Attack is neatly divided into two acts, first following Jaafari in the days before and after the bombing and then on his solo quest on the other side of the line, in the West Bank city of Nablus. But the truth Jaafari seeks is as elusive as peace in this troubled part of the world.

Director Ziad Doueiri does a fine job of presenting us with two worlds in conflict: modern, prosperous and progressive Tel Aviv, and Nablus, a city of shadows, squalor and paranoia. Doueiri walks a fine line, presenting the audience with impassioned perspectives from both sides of the conflict without ever betraying a bias. 

The film, which was an official selection at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and has received favourable buzz on the festival circuit, has been banned in a number of Arab countries. But Doueiri has no apologies to make for a film that explores the mystery of the human soul and the secrets that divide us. The Attack is steeped in both poignancy and intrigue, anchored by powerful performances, and it never panders by offering simple answers to complex issues.- Bruce DeMara, Toronto Star


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