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FORD TRANSIT (director/writer: Hany Abu-Assad; screenwriter: Bero Beyer; cinematographer: Menno Westendorp; editor: Patrick Minks; cast: Rajai Khatib, Hanan Ashrawi, B.Z. Goldberg; Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bero Beyer; Sundance Channel/Cinephil; 2002-Israel/Palestine-in Arabic/English/Hebrew with English subtitles)
“Stimulating and unique documentary.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hany Abu-Assad’s (“Rana’s Wedding”) stimulating and unique documentary gets the take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by interviewing the ordinary Arab riders taking a Ford minibus back and forth from Ramallah to Jerusalem. The Fords are former Israeli police vehicles purchased by the Palestinians when they were put on the market as too unreliable. The white Fords with Hebrew writing on the side cover the West Bank territories where they pick up their diverse riders that include businessmen, politicians, a fundamentalist apologist for the terrorists, one Israeli intellectual filmmaker (B.Z. Goldberg), a member of the Palestinian Authority stating violence is not the answer (Hanan Ashrawi), modern dressed women and those in traditional Arab garb, a lawyer, a West Bank waiter in a bowtie who can’t live with his East Jerusalem wife because of the occupation, assorted commuters and kids. Spirited young Arab bus driver Rajai, who maintains one can’t survive the occupation without taking risks, boldly transports his passengers between checkpoints–not averse to going off the tar road to take a detour in the hilly sand road to avoid a roadblock. The riders get off before the checkpoints and walk across, as that’s faster than crossing by bus and going through a lengthy ID check. On the other side of the checkpoint they take another Ford minibus.

Not going after startling revelations, the documentary instead serves the worthwhile purpose of showing how the roadblocks might be doing more harm in Israeli-Palestinian relations than good, since they mostly act to infuriate the Arab riders–which in their opinion are used to bully them and showoff Israeli military superiority–and have only increased suicide bombings since they were stepped-up. Rajai further states in a boastful tone: “Palestinians are like ants. They’d get around any roadblock.” That we witness as true, as the animated driver, a small-time hustler has no trouble adjusting his trip to whatever the road conditions call for (carrying aboard the bus a box load of counterfeit CD’s, which gets to Jerusalem; the point being it could have just as easily been a bomb, since the roadblock is only a political cosmetic measure of protection and in reality can’t stop the terrorists).

The passengers’ comments range from political aloofness to placing the blame solely on the occupiers for the increased violence to a disgust with the leaders on both sides (Sharon and Arafat). Most of the opinions were reasonably thought out and seem to infer that the terrorists by killing innocent people have not helped the cause and that things can’t be resolved until the occupation ends. The general feeling is that the leaders are out of touch with the average person on either side and if they faced the daily miseries the man in the street does, they would begin immediately to bargain in good faith for a solution. I can’t argue with that sentiment.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”