Apples of the Golan review: Arab fruit on the Heights

Interesting documentary about Arab villagers who survive by exporting their apples to war-torn Syria

Film Title: Apples of the Golan

Director: Keith Walsh , Jill Beardsworth

Starring:

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 82 min

Thu, Jan 15, 2015, 16:57

   

In 1967, there were 136 Arab villages in Golan Heights; now there are five, including Majdal Shams, an address populated by 22,000 Arab Druze. The Druze, monotheists who are neither Islamic nor Christian, are not as numerous as they used to be. Some 130,000 of them have taken refuge in Syria.

That doesn’t mean Madjal Shams is anything like a seaside town that they forgot to close down. It is, rather, an eclectic community of skateboarders, drummers, guitarists, shepherds and salsa dancers. Irish film-makers Keith Walsh and Jill Beardsworth spent four years among the villagers, chronicling daily life in an occupied territory.

There are practicalities: the community is dependent on the titular fruit, which is exported to Syria with assistance from the Red Cross. It is, given the circumstances, the only permissible export. One local explains (not entirely convincingly) that the apples growing in the Israeli settlements have six pips, one for each point of the Star of David, while their own apples have five pips for the Syrian flag.

Apples of the Golan takes a grassroots approach to its material, documenting without editorialising, finding a natural rhythm that is sure to please fans of Sleep Furiously or Le Quattro Volte.

Then again, the film doesn’t require a guiding narrative: the besieged location is, in itself, a loaded choice. Resources in Golan are controlled in a way that makes farming and fishing increasingly difficult on a daily basis. Movement is equally challenging. One woman screams at Israeli soldiers when they won’t allow her across the border to attend her father’s funeral. Many of the youngsters feel trapped and jaded.

Kudos to our chums at Wildcard Distribution for taking a belated chance on this fascinating documentary feature, more than two years after it premiered at the Dublin International Film Festival. Sadly, given subsequent escalations in Syria, one suspects this may be a Last Chance to See.