Checkpoint: A Film by Yoav Shamir

Checkpoint (original title: Machssomim) is a 2003 documentary film by Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir, showing the everyday interaction between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians at several of the regions Israel Defence Forces checkpoints. The film won five awards at various film festivals, including Best International Documentary at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

Dozens of checkpoints lie scattered throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, manned by the Israeli Defence Forces. Thousands of Palestinians pass through them every day, making them one of the major meeting points between both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many different encounters occur at these checkpoints each and every day, revealing a reality with its own rules and regulations, a reality that has a destructive impact on both societies.

Filmed over two years, ‘Checkpoint’ depicts the harsh and banal routine of these crossing points and documents the day-to-day situations that form a microcosm of the situation. The cameras film in a pure and non-manipulative manner so that the viewer feels part of the experience of ‘checkpoint culture’. The film is an attempt to show the more human side of the situation, and, as with any such depiction, will show all aspects of the human condition – from the ‘jobsworth’ IDF recruits refusing to allow any variation from their ‘orders’, from the most obnoxious of members of the border security police at the Bethlehem checkpoint through to the very humane IDF soldier at the Nablus South checkpoint, we are presented with young men who are ultimately responsible for the overseeing of their country’s security. Balanced by this is the terrible plight of how the situation affects ‘ordinary’ Palestinians. An ambulance stopped and searched, ditto a school bus – both will ensure a lot of anger at such depictions – until it is understood that both modes of transport have been used in the past for the carrying of explosives. It does not alter the impact on the Palestinians themselves – the checkpoints are mostly unacceptable. BUt the film at least humanises the process and delves behind some of the headline news.

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