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Between Fences: watch Avi Mograbi’s documentary film about the detainees at holot

Avi Mograbi’s documentary film, Between Fences, chronicles a theatre workshop for asylum seekers at the Holot Detention Facility, in the Negev Desert in Israel. Mograbi and director Chen Alon started the workshop. The film was screened at numerous festivals in Israel and around the world and is highly acclaimed; yet no Israeli television channel has expressed interest in airing it.

The film follows the theatre workshop over 18 months, from mid-2014 to the end of 2015. The workshop was conducted weekly in an abandoned military hanger within walking distance of Holot; some 50 asylum seekers participated in the workshop, as did a number of Israeli activists. Alon’s work method for the workshop is called Theatre of the Oppressed, developed by Augusto Boal during the military dictatorship in Brazil in the 1960s. The stories of the asylum seekers’ escape from their native countries, and their experiences in the countries in which they arrive, which do not want them there, are revealed during the workshop. The asylum seekers dramatize their stories and play all of the parts – the good and bad, white and black.

The film also documents the asylum seekers’ protest march to the Egyptian border in June 2014, which ended with harsh, violent arrests; it depicts the frustration of those who created independent lives for themselves and had to relocate in one fell swoop to a detention facility, and the emotional rollercoaster that the detainees experience between Supreme Court rulings and amendments legislated by the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). In early stages of filming, Holot still operated as a facility with unlimited detention and three roll calls per day. In September 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that this was unconstitutional, and a few months later a new Knesset amendment determined that detention would be limited to 20 months, with only two roll calls every day. In August 2015 the Supreme Court partially accepted an additional petition by human rights organizations, after which detentions were limited to one year.

In June 2016, as part of International Refugee Day events, “Between Fences” was screened at the Holot detention facility. Afwarky Tiama, a Holot detainee from Eritrea, described the unique experience to “The Hottest Place in Hell”, an online magazine: “We sat together – refugees and Israelis, we clapped and we laughed, even when it was sad. Watching – the play and movie – together with Israelis created an optimistic feeling here at Holot, because only rarely do we have the opportunity to talk about all of our problems with Israelis. This was a terrific opportunity to explain to Israelis what we experience and to see that there are Israelis who care about what happens to us. Whoever sees the movie will better understand the significance of life in the big prison called Eritrea. This movie is our truth. It is our mirror”. Read Afwarky’s full piece in “The Hottest Place in Hell” (Hebrew) here.

Between Fences was screened at the Docaviv Film Festival and Cinema South Film Festival, as well as other festivals around the world – Berlin, Buenos Aires, Paris – and was highly acclaimed. It was also screened at the Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem Cinematheques, and yet no Israeli television channel has expressed interest in airing it. The film can now be viewed on Youtube, and has more than 50,000 views.

Director: Avi Mograbi
Theatre Director: Chen Alon
Production: Avi Mograbi, Camille Laemle, Serge Lalou
Production Company: Les Films D’ici
Screenplay and Editing: Avi Mograbi
Camera: Philippe Bellaiche
Research: Dr. Adva Zeltzer
Soundtrack: Dominique Vieillard
Music: Noam Inbar