ARENA OF MURDER (ZIRAT HA'REZACH) (director/writer: Amos Gitai; cinematographers: Jorge Gurvich/Ariel Semmel/Jean-Paul Toraille; editor: Oren Medics; music: Simon Stockhausen; cast: Lea Rabin, Aviv Geffen, Samuel Calderon, David Cohen, Dalit Kahan, Efratia Gitai, Avner Hacohen, Uri Simchoni; Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ilan Moscovitch; Facets Video; 1996-Israel/France-in Hebrew with English subtitles)

"A highly personal and for the most part effective meditative documentary that investigates the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Amos Gitai ("Eden"/"Kadosh"/"Kippur") directs a highly personal and for the most part effective meditative documentary that investigates the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Tel Aviv, three weeks after the event took place on November 4, 1995. The smug youthful killer, Yigat Amir, a religious Jewish settler is the scary fanatical figure who rigidly believes he's right. His action is blamed for changing history and preventing the peace process with the Palestinians from moving forward, as Rabin valued human life over land and was prepared to bring peace to his worn-torn country.

Gitai starts with an interview with Rabin's dignified grief-stricken widow, who tries to make the best of her husband's death by bearing no ill-will and remaining cautiously optimistic, and then travels through Tel Aviv, Haifa, Gaza and the Golan Heights, as he tries to access for the next several months the country's grief and sense of loss. It's a melancholic portrait of country that is stunned that a Jew could kill a fellow Jew and still think he's a man of religion.

The most passionate outcry for Rabin's death comes from pop star Aviv Geffen -- the last person to be embraced by Rabin -- who emotionally sings at a concert "We are a fucked up generation."

The heartfelt message Gitai leaves us with is 'Enough hatred,' which is not deeply probing or provocative as is the usual want of the filmmaker but is nevertheless sincere and reflective. Gitai drives and films across the country from a kibbutz to the West Bank territories to the modern cities and chats at random with both acquaintances, ex-war veterans and the people on the street, and we see a country with modern urban problems that range from traffic jams and graffiti and a changing political climate that seems to be caught between a further collective peace effort and by the right-wing Likud party aiming to replace the reeling Labor party with vows not to swap land for peace (there seems to be in the air a sure-sign that peace died when Rabin was gunned down by three shots in the streets of Tel Aviv). In the background the biblical themed eulogy on the sound track tells us 'there's a season for war and a season for peace.'

REVIEWED ON 10/7/2009       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"