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Day 212 Of The War: Screams Before Silence

Getting ready for tonight's demonstration in Kaplan. Ny photo of the different signs
Getting ready for tonight's demonstration in Kaplan. Ny photo of the different signs

After reading an interview by Shani Litman in Haaretz newspaper with the director Anat Stalinsky about her new documentary film focusing on the sexual crimes committed by Hamas in the massacre on October 7th, I decided to watch ‘Screams Before Silence.’ What convinced me was her explanation about the decision not to include explicit graphic images in the film. On October 7th and shortly after, there were many discussions about watching (or not watching) the horrible videos of the massacre. I specifically remember that one Israeli journalist pleaded with parents not to let their teenage children watch them if they could help it. Once you watch it, she warned, it cannot be erased. ‘Screams Before Silence’  (available on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@ScreamsBefore) was the first film that I watched about the atrocities on October 7th, and I found it particularly moving and important. I felt that it gave a voice to the victims who were forever silenced on that day. The approach of using testimonies of survivors and interviews with professional experts in the field of sexual violence worked well and was very effective. I felt that at a time when so many people around the world either prefer not to think about the horrible massacre or, at worst, deny its occurrence or justify the crimes of the ‘freedom fighters’ who committed them, this film is especially important.  The target audience of ‘Screams Before Silence’  are  viewers outside Israel. For this end, the creators approached Sheryl Sandberg and asked her to be the presenter and the interviewer of the film so she could offer a non-Israeli viewpoint. This choice proved effective: Sandberg’s empathy and genuine curiosity made her a reassuring  presence on the set. Further more throughout the film she remained focused on listening and asking questions rather than drawing attention to herself. The director’s decision not to show explicit images but to focus solely on the testimonies maintains the film’s seriousness and credibility, avoiding sensationalism. It appears that sometimes telling rather than showing is an effective artistic device.

In June 2013, I attended a lecture by historian Hayden White https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/not-being-there-a-tribute-to-hayden-white/ at the Hebrew University, where he discussed the decision of Saul Friedlander, the historian of the Holocaust, not to include a certain photograph in one of his books, but rather to describe it in his own words. Similarly, when presenting materials pertaining to another Shoah, the October 7th massacre,  Stalinsky did the same thing. She chose not to include explicit images in her film, fearing perhaps that they might turn the viewers away and distract them from listening to the testimonies. By doing so and by choosing Sandberg as a kind of mediator, she succeeded in maintaining a greater control over the viewers’ reactions. Unbearable crimes were committed by Hamas, and the film ‘Screams Before Silence’ managed to convey what happened   on October 7th  in a considerate and sensitive way, without pushing away the wider public.

last night, we first went  again to demonstrate in Kaplan and then stood with the families of the hostages to demand their release. I hope this hopeless situation will end soon.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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