October 07, 2005

Avenge but One of My Two Eyes / The White Diamond

Reviewed by Martin Tsai at the 24th Vancouver International Film Festival

Juxtaposing the undignified daily lives of Palestinians – who are unable to pass checkpoints even for medical emergencies – with guides regaling tourists with Jewish folklore of Samson and the Zealots committing suicide in the face of their respective Philistine and Roman occupiers, the documentary Avenge but One of My Two Eyes curiously links today’s suicide bombers with yesteryear’s heroes. The premise is fascinating and inflammatory, but Avi Mograbi’s first-person account provides too much unnecessary distraction. Interspersed scenes of broken-English telephone exchanges between the Israeli director and his Palestinian friend Shredi Jabarin are visually dreary and rarely revealing. The climactic scene of Mograbi snapping at Israeli guards also seems beside the point.

With The White Diamond, Werner Herzog finds yet another hell-bent eccentric on a mission. Brit aeronaut Graham Dorrington is set on flying over Guyana with a helium balloon he built, even though he is still overcoming the guilt from an accidental death caused by one of his experimental aircraft a decade ago. Similar to most of Herzog’s films – as well as his protégée Errol Morris’s Fast, Cheap and Out of Control and Zak Penn’s spoof Incident at Loch NessDiamond treats its mad genius with wide-eyed wonder and deadpan hilarity. (Perhaps auteurist scholars might want to reconsider Invincible as a comedy?) Like Grizzly Man, the most fascinating aspect of Diamond is what the director alludes to but chooses to withhold. Truth is stranger than fiction indeed.

© Copyright 2005 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.