Apples of the Golan – Movie Review

Apples of Golan

Apples of the Golan – Review by Paul Halpin

Directors: Jill Beardsworth, Keith Walsh

This documentary, by Keith Walsh and Jill Beardsworth, tells the story of the residents of the Golan Heights – an area of Syria that has been occupied by Israeli forces since the 1967 Six Day War. Since then, many of the occupants have fled never to return, Israel has continued to ‘Plantate’ settlements upon the indigenous population, and those Syrian Arabs that are left behind struggle with their the loss of their identity, families and freedom.

Only students, pilgrims and brides (never to return) can cross over from the Golan Heights into Syria – and, of course, Apples. Apples are the lifeblood of the local economy, but they represent much more than that to some of the residents – Apples gives them a sense of identity and self-worth. ‘Apples of the Golan’ focuses on one of the 5 remaining Arab Villages, Majdal Shams. We come across various different characters – The militant Syrian who pledges undying loyalty to Syria’s controversial leader Bashar al Assad; The teenage rappers who have no affinity for the ‘old ways’ and prefer Hip-Hop to caring about political causes; The Bride who crossed over from Syria to the Golan and cannot return; The love sick man who risked it all and attempted to cross the heavily militarised border (think Checkpoint Charlie on Steroids); and many, many more.

The story can be heartbreaking at times, and, in fairness to the Documentary makers, they try to take in all the varying opinions and plights of the residents. Unfortunately, they are often too keen to dish out a heavy handed metaphor (with a variety of imagery and voiceovers) or set up a perfectly framed shot with a weather beaten face, and contrasting colours in the background; because, ye know, Directors of Photography everywhere will appreciate that. The result is that on occasion the piece can become overtly ‘Preachy’ and downright patronising to their subjects, and the audience.

Overall though, it is a thought provoking piece that would have taken great commitment and no little bravery to get made in the first place. By all means it is definitely worth watching, but don’t be surprised if you do cringe in places.


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