Israel film turns camera on would-be women bombers

Sun Feb 10, 2008 3:23am EST
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By Sylvia Westall

BERLIN (Reuters) - When Israeli director Natalie Assouline told Palestinian women convicted of taking part in suicide bomb plots that she wanted to make a film about them, they thought she was crazy.

But she went ahead and over a period of two years visited an Israeli prison to film "Shahida - Brides of Allah," a documentary exploring the motives of women who recruit and drive bombers to public places or strap on explosives themselves.

"When I started coming to film again and again the women didn't know how to take me. They must have thought, 'who is this crazy, Israeli Jewish person?"' Assouline told Reuters at the Berlin film festival, where the film had its premiere.

The film combines a series of thoughtful one-on-one interviews with scenes from everyday prison life -- tearful family visits, school classes, gossip about clothes and boredom.

In turn humorous and shocking, Assouline's camera lets the women tell their stories and produce their own irony and fun in their brightly decorated cells.

One woman coyly describes wanting to blow up a hospital which treated her for severe burns following a kitchen accident, even though the Israeli doctors were kind. Another cuddles her son and says she wanted to destroy an Israeli kindergarten.

In one bizarrely comic scene, an inmate whispers to her friend that she wanted to blow herself up because she was fed up and wanted something to do. Many of the women lament the fact that they were caught because their explosives did not detonate.

Assouline said that although she sympathized with the women's pain, as when one inmate dolefully accepts her husband's right to take a new wife under Islamic law, she tried not to allow it to color her judgment of the prisoners.   Continued...