The Long, Violent History of Israel and Palestine Musically Animated by Nina Paley

You may remember Nina Paley, about whose movie Sita Sings the Blues we posted back in 2009. If you follow animation, you certainly remember her, since she put together that feature-length, jazz vocal-scored, autobiographical adaptation of the Indian myth the Ramayana almost entirely with her own set of self-taught skills. For some time now, Paley's fans have known that her next major project, Seder-Masochism, will retell the story of Exodus using narration assembled from genuine Passover Seder recordings. This we learned when Paley chose to fund the first phase of the project on Kickstarter. We can now watch, embedded above, the very first scene she has completed: "This Land is Mine," a brief and bloody musical history of the territory called, depending upon your perspective, Israel, Palestine, Canaan, or Levant.

Helpfully, Paley has written up a guide to this sequence's many players: you've got the Canaanites, who kill Early Man; the Egpytians, who kill the Canaanites; the Assyrians, who kill the Egyptians; and so on forward through the annals until we arrive at the modern-day battles between "PLO/Hamas/Hezbollah," the State of Israel, and "guerrillas/freedom fighters/terrorists." Anyone who even occasionally glances toward the news knows full well how large conflict and death loom today over this particular slice of the world, but through Paley's high-body-count animated interpretation of the place's history, we can see that it was ever thus. She flinches not from her subject matter's overwhelming violence, nor from her own tendency to inject it with humor. This bodes well for what she'll do with the rest of the story, collect it as she will from as many Seders as she can attend. The makings, truly, of an Exodus different from all other Exoduses.

Related content:

Middle Eastern History: Free Courses

Dramatizing the Middle East

Revolutions in the Middle East: Head of Al Jazeera Speaks at TED

Sita Sings the Blues Now on YouTube

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.


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  • So, this isn’t racist, stereotypical, or condemnable in anyway?

    Just as Newsweek’s cover story ‘Muslim Rage’ subjected all citizens of countries in the Middle East (regardless of party, position, or lack thereof) as being nothing more than bloodthirsty savages, a broad brush is being painted here as well, in a very trivialised manner.

    A black and white issue this is not, for what is today, an even more complicated situation. More so now because it has the interests of the global population involved.

    This caricature is uncouth and quite disrespectful. Are we supposed to be educated while watching this or merely entertained? Either way, it is a failure on both accounts.

  • If I may disagree with Mr. Lowe, Being uncouth and disrespectful is never a parameter to qualify art: This piece is provoking and brings forth many questions beyond the scope of its duration. Racist it is not, as no race portrayed is brought as superior to any other, the counterpoint behind the exalted tone of the lyrics and the graphic violence creates a landscape which enables us to examine the nature of any confñict, not only this one. I, for one, am not dissapointed in any way with the work of Ms. Paley.

  • Kyle says:

    I thought it was pretty darn good. First half could have been trimmed, but the section about the 20th century packed a lot in.

    Andrew Lowe! Men should not use tampons. Take this advice and your whole mood will improve.

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