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MSPIFF: "Beaufort"

Posted at 5:30 PM on April 28, 2008 by Euan Kerr

is a movie which places a contemporary struggle in an ancient context to pose questions about politics and war.

The Israeli entry for this years foreign-language Oscar is set in Beaufort, a castle built by the Crusaders in what is now Lebanon, and occupied by the Israelis for almost two decades. The story takes place in the final days before the Israelis pulled out in 2000.

The fort has tremendous symbolic value, but the soldiers have been ordered not to return fire. Thus they sit on the side of a beautiful mountain and scurry for cover several times a day as enemy mortar shells whistle in from the sky. All they can do is stay put wait and watch.

It's a surreal place. The medieval fort is still there, but the modern emplacement is a concrete bunker more reminiscent of a spaceship. It's a network of reinforced tunnels which look so alike newcomers easily get lost.

It's commanded by a young officer called Liraz (Oshri Cohen) who has to keep his men focused on their work, even though they all know it's just a matter of time before they will be leaving. Yet the political bosses keep changing their minds and director Joseph Cedar adds to the tension as the soldiers get hurt and begin to realize some of them will die for no reason other than political ineptitude.

No matter what your views on the Israeli situation, this is a powerful story about the wretched position soldiers can find themselves.

Beaufort screens tonight and tomorrow at MSPIFF

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