Telluride 2012: Ziad Doueiri's 'The Attack' is Engaging & Compelling
by Alex Billington
September 4, 2012
There's always a gem or two (or sometimes more) to discover at film festivals, usually a film you've never heard of before, something that when you sit down in the theater, all you know about it is the title, nothing more. That was the case with The Attack at Telluride this year, a personal but powerful drama focused on an innocent surgeon caught in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film is the third feature by Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, who previously worked on Quentin Tarantino's crews in his early years, and with this film he shows just how talented and intricate of a director he is, with quite a career still ahead of him.
The Attack introduces us to Dr. Amin Jaafari (played by Ali Suliman), an accomplished and talented Arab surgeon so good at what he does, that he was invited to work at one of the most prestigious hospitals in Tel Aviv. He has put the conflict and disagreements of the two nations behind him, but one day at work they hear of a bombing. Patients begin to come in and they discover a suicide bomber attacked a cafe, killing 17 people, 11 of which were children. It's there where the story really picks up, as the investigation begins and we learn that Jaafari's wife may have more to do with the bombing than anyone could have ever imagined.
What makes The Attack such an engaging and unrelenting film is the way it reveals each piece of the story, nearly turning into a thriller. From the first few scenes, it's easy to instantly like and feel an attachment to the main character (a necessity for a good story), simply by the nature of who he is and how he's introduced. But even from those first few moments, they're planting seeds and introducing tiny details that may come into play later on, as it all continues to unravel. It isn't until it reaches a certain point that we start to realize these threads are all part of the same, much bigger rug that both Israel and Palestine have on their floor.
As much as I wish I could talk in depth about where the story ends up, this is one of this films that I highly recommend watching without knowing anything about it going in. Just the title - The Attack. And just the knowledge that it's an intimate story about a caring, loving man and his beautiful wife, caught in the turmoil and coercion of the deadly Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I do think the film has a very international appeal, with a soundtrack featuring contemporary music and an engaging story, while also palpably capturing the modern age worlds of Tel Aviv and the Palestinian city Nablus (it was filmed on location in both countries).
However, the heartfelt story at its core is the kind that no matter who you are or where you are from, or what religion you practice or believe in, it will pull at your own emotional heartstrings. It's a raw, sometimes brutal, sometimes sad, sometimes inspiring film about just how far one man will go to defend the ones he loves deeply. The Attack is an international indie gem worth discovering and admiring as soon as you can.
Alex's Telluride Rating: 8.5 out of 10