Jose Padilha’s new film, ‘7 Days in Entebbe’ is on release and reflects on the rescue of hostages from Entebbe that took place in 1976.
The Director recently stated that, “Terrorists have a conscience, terrorists are human beings”. The comments were made to Hadashot TV and Padilha went onto say that, “they are human beings who made a great mistake, they are doing something terrible, unforgivable, but they are human beings. If I portray terrorists as inhuman, I’m crazy.”
Padilha revisits the Entebbe rescue and challenges the narrative laid down by earlier films like the ‘Raid on Entebbe’. His aim is to recast the story on what he regards as the most authentic version of the facts.
No-one can fault Padilha in his quest to find the truth, though there are some points that do not sit well and which feel like an enormous fish-bone stuck in the throat. Firstly, there is nothing about Entebbe which warrants a sympathy with the actions of terrorists who abducted hostages from the Air France flight 139. Nor should we have sympathy with the actions of terrorists which led to the subsequent deaths of hostages, murdered because they were Jewish and by Idi Amin’s brutal army. Let us not forget that Amin’s army was led by a maniacal dictator in the form of Amin, meaning that discipline and human rights were last on their bucket list of things to do.
Personally, having seen Padhila’s comments, the making of such a film like this, is painful. It is painful because my family left Entebbe penniless in 1972 and with not a Schilling to rub together as we were stripped off our assets and put on planes for any state to take us. Humiliated, penniless and kicked out of our country – Uganda – no-one really cared about the actions of another African dictator, yet many Ugandan Asians could see the writing on the wall. They believed that Amin was going to get embroiled in some form of conflict and it was only a matter of time before he did so. It is now clear that he got himself actively involved in terrorist movements, which ultimately led to the death of up to 1 million Ugandans, the expulsion of all of Uganda’s Asians and the murder and killings of Israelis through the 1976 Entebbe hijacking. For Amin, the Palestinian cause was useful, being a Muslim was useful and playing on anti-colonial rhetoric was useful. It was useful since Amin was only out for himself and he used every situation to ensure that his power and his ruthlessness were protected and known. It is therefore into this arena that Padhila’s film is shot, one of paranoia, brutalism and ultimately, chaos.
For Padilha to try and provide some ‘understanding’ of the motives of the terrorists involved is sickening, but Entebbe was more than just a hijacking. It was another assault on a race of people, just as Amin had assaulted and abused my parents and Ugandan Asians who had worked so hard to try and make a life within the country. It was another road in his genocidal plans, having murdered and butchered fellow Ugandans and wiped out any trace of the history of Ugandan Asians in his country. No doubt, it was a matter of time before he targeted another group and race of people, in this case Jewish Israelis.
In entering this arena, Padhila needs to understand the ongoing chaos and brutalism that was at play through Amin’s regime. For it was Amin who allowed the Air France plane to land and it was Amin’s soldiers who protected and looked after the terrorists. It was in effect, a hijacking by Amin who simply wanted to be at the centre stage of the world’s attention. It was something that Amin did time and time again – try and make himself relevant.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the terrorists, if the film leaves you feeling that the terrorists were somehow a ‘victim’ in the hijacking events, then Padhila’s work simply adds to a growing list of revisionism taking place. What the film should leave you with, is a strong feeling that within the chaos of hatred, racism and brutalism, no-one is safe, especially not Jewish communities. If it does anything else, then Padhila’s work misses out on the truth. That Truth is that at the heart of Entebbe was Amin and Amin was driven by hatred towards anyone and anything that got in his way. The Palestinian cause for him was a jacket he put on and threw away when it suited it. The best thing we can do is to discard Amin and those killers to the scrapheap of history.