SF Jewish Film Festival :: Chronicle of a Kidnap

by Christopher Soden

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday July 27, 2009

SF Jewish Film Festival :: Chronicle of a Kidnap

In the documentary Chronicle of a Kidnap, director Nurit Kedar has accomplished the nearly impossible. She has tackled an infinitely painful subject with grace, incision, strength and sensitivity. Above all she has achieved this without exploitation. Roughly two-thirds into the film, one of the numerous people involved is discussing the ordeal of Karnit Goldwasser, who makes the arduous circuit from group to group, official to official, pleading for political assistance and intervention on behalf of her husband. He describes the demeaning process of making one's personal agony accessible to strangers, without seeming manipulative or calculating. He might easily have been describing Chronicle of a Kidnap, which navigates this difficult process with humanity, dignity and restraint.

Conceivably, Kedar might have realized from the outset that documentary would be a viable medium for the story of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped by Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese Border on July 12th, 2006, precipitating the Lebanon War. It follows the journey of Udi's wife, Karnit with a fair amount of detachment, finding visual metaphors for narrative and spiritual details, but leaning towards the cerebral. The various participants, Udi's parents and friends, experts, attorneys, marshals, intermediaries, all talk about the problem, bringing their insight and great empathy for Kanit and the missing men, but almost no emotion is shown. Tension arises from the unspoken desperation and despair that the need for hope keeps in check.

Director Nurit Kedar has tackled an infinitely painful subject with grace, incision, strength and sensitivity.

Chronicle of a Kidnap is in some ways, similar to Lee Blessing's play, Two Rooms, in which a professor is abducted and held prisoner as a bargaining chip between two countries. The wife struggles to navigate the politics, prevarication, withholding of information, diplomacy, in short : the conflicting needs of her country and her obvious need to save her husband's life. Nurit Kedar has done the same here, without the benefit of showing us the Udi and Eldad's conditions, conveying the maddening labyrinth that Karnit must grope her way through, trying to find someone who can make some headway or at least get her some substantive answers. Kedar is masterful in her ability to express the profound frustration of someone deeply in love, subjected to a prolonged crucible.

Kedar's wielding of the camera is far beyond impressive. With understated canniness she captures moments that are simple yet fraught with information. A meeting between Karnit and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres is reduced to awkward silences and forced smiles. A small votive candle turns a demolished jeep into a roadside shrine. As she makes an appearance before a sympathetic group, we see Karnit's, pretty, intelligent, anxious face and the suffering she must keep on a short tether.

Chronicle of a Kidnap is a poignant example of what a gifted and meticulous director can do when called upon to do justice to extremely difficult content. What might have wound up feeling dry or overwhelming has just the right touch, taking us into a devastating milieu with frank, genuine wisdom and understanding of the impact of the catastrophic.

Christopher Soden received his MFA in Poetry from Vermont College in 2005. He is a teacher, lecturer, actor, performer and playwright. In addition he writes film, theatre and literary critique. In his spare time he likes to read, cook, dine, do crossword puzzles, chill and nap.