The Long Way Home Reviews
My understanding is that, when Spike Lee found out his [i]4 Little Girls[/i] was up against this, he already considered the Best Documentary Feature Oscar lost. I mean, he was up against a Holocaust documentary, and the Holocaust always wins. (Clearly, [i]The Reader[/i] at least somewhat gives lie to this.) I might also make the argument that the Academy doesn't much like films which show American culpability in things, especially in things which are a clear breakdown of the democratic process. A documentary about how the Academy screwed over the blacklisted wouldn't even be considered for nomination, as I hope Spike Lee would agree. I would also agree with Spike Lee that the Academy is not as colourblind as they would like us to believe they are. I will not, however, make a value judgement about which film is better. It's been too long since I've seen his.
The year is 1945. The Nazis are defeated. The camps are liberated. Millions are dead and many more are dying in the remains of the concentration camp system. However, the Nazi genocide is not complete, and many Jews remain alive. Their families are dead. Their property is long gone, and few of their former neighbours are much inclined to give any of it back even were the survivors necessarily inclined to go back to retrieve it. The Axis wanted them dead; the Allies are none too thrilled about having to deal with the remains of the problem. All over Europe there are Displaced Person Camps. These are people with nowhere left to go. No country wants them. Their long-lost homeland is now British-ruled Palestine, and the British are disinclined to let Jews go there, either. Obviously, life for the Jews is vastly better than it was, but it still isn't good.
Here's where we get into the place where it's surprising that the film, even with its Holocaust theme, won the Oscar. The simple fact is, it shows that the Americans bear blame for what happened after the war. The film leaves what happened before alone, but things didn't just magically stop being bad for Jews after. A few dozen Jews were actually murdered in post-war Poland for the infamous Blood Libel, the claim that Jews murder unbaptized Christian infants to use their blood in illicit ceremonies, such as baking it into the Passover matzo. The American ambassador to Poland then basically said the Jews brought suffering on themselves. The British Prime Minister said the Jews were always coming whining to him about something when they went to ask that more than 1500 a month be permitted to emigrate to Palestine. There is the Polish liability for those murders, and there is the American and British liability for their failure to prevent them.
I do not say that fault is always two-sided, you see; those Jews were [i]not[/i] slaughtering Christian innocents to make the Passover matzo. However, the end of the film reaches the point where you see Jewish people starting the actions which will cause them continued problems even to this day. It has been a very long time indeed, since you were able to settle land on which no one yet lived, and even longer since you were able to settle such land so close to the Great Rift Valley. In the long years of the Diaspora, what is now Israel was not empty. People had made their homes there. There is land which has belonged to the same family for many centuries, and with the rise of the Jewish state, much of it was taken away and given to new owners. New owners who should have considered how it felt when their own property was thus taken from them.
History must be passed on. These tales of the years after Liberation must still be shared. Those who would tell the stories are dying, after all. I am also a firm believer in the power of just talking. I think that, if you could get Jewish children and Palestinian children to sit and tell one another their families' histories, each side might stand a chance at knowing that the fault is not all on one side. It gets harder as they get older; I know a Lebanese woman who refuses to see that Palestinians act in anything but self-defense to Israeli atrocities. No, talk does not stop everyone, and yes, there are many generations of hatred to be reconciled. However, there is a start to everything, and listening to the stories instead of blindly denying them is a good way to start.