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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Comments (3)
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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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