Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Promised Land (Amos Gitai) (2004)

"Promised Land" tells the story of a group of young unwitting Estonian girls smuggled through Egypt to be auctioned off as prostitutes in Israel, and of their initiation into this trade of flesh, and finally of the accidental freeing of one girl who most fight for her freedom. Promised Land both starts and ends in the darkness of night: the opening is a series of abstract images of the desert, where moonlight plays on a camel train led by Arab herders. We then see a border of barbed wire and a group of young women being led to the other side. This marks both the end and the beginning of their voyage, for all are Eastern Europeans destined to become part of the flesh trade, which clearly has a place in modern Israel. Their promised land is not a place of milk and honey, but instead quite the opposite: a sordid, anonymous, surreal non-place, where they are hustled and moved around like cattle, afforded little dignity, stripped of their individuality and sent out to pay their way. But in this dehumanizing world, Gitai nevertheless finds glimmers of humanity and, eventually, resistance: a madam (a tour-de-force cameo by the great Hanna Schygulla) provides solace for a distraught young woman, while other friendships slowly emerge amongst the women themselves.


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