Ofra Bloch is a psychotherapist, specializing in trauma, who always wanted to be a filmmaker. But it’s her actual profession, not her preferred one, that makes her documentary “Afterward” a valuable document.
She questions, she probes, she listens and she tries to understand in this film that connects the Holocaust and Israel’s political use of it to what the Palestinians call “Nakba,” that day in 1948 when the State of Israel was born, displacing 750,000 non-Jews who had been there long before the influx of Jewry that came to be called “Zionism” began.
Bloch buys into the idea that “trauma can be passed down generations.” Her interviews with non-Jewish Germans over the collective guilt many feel there about the sins of their parents confirm this for her.
But what about the land she was born and grew up in, Israel? There’s trauma everywhere, and it isn’t just evident every year in that Holocaust Memorial Day, when Jews across the land hear sirens, and stop whatever they’re doing for a full minute to remember. What Bloch wants to wrestle with is the trauma of Palestinians in a land torn by strife since the late 19th century writings and exhortations of Theodor Herzl urged Jews to move there.
Bloch recalls the image Israel has long trumpeted, of industrious, oppressed Jews arriving in a “barren desert” and turning it into the modern state as a revival of the historic Judah/Israel.
“They built their state on our ruins,” one Palestinian she speaks with explains. Yes, they were fleeing pogroms and later The Holocaust. But on arrival, they had to destroy the towns, homes and lives that were there to have living space for the arrival of “God’s Chosen People.”
A good therapist doesn’t let her emotions get the better of her, even if we can feel Bloch shudder a bit at taking in this new point of view, hearing out Palestinian grievances, their version or “spin” of the violent resistance that from time to time grips a country that at times can seem like an Apartheid state.
She hears out the “Zionist colonization” stories, the cause of trauma, and listens to Germans reach for some sort of atonement for their past sins, and connects the two experiences — even if she does not seek or could not find any Israelis who share her growing sense of guilt over and the violence against children perpetrated by Israeli soldiers and even civilians in the endless tit-for-tat struggle.
More gutsy is her hearing out and agreeing with “Israeli/Jewish victimhood,” the ongoing spin that excuses walls, “soldiers as police,” and state sponsored violence against an oppressed minority. And Bloch brazenly begins the film with the most inflammatory statement of all, from a fellow psychotherapist, a Muslim woman practicing in Jerusalem.
“Whenever Palestinians bring up The Occupation, The Holocaust is brought up…The history of The Holocaust is silencing the world.”
“Afterward” isn’t a great film, with some of Bloch’s interviews taking us off topic, as interesting as they might be. But any documentary that suggests that victimhood isn’t reserved for one group, that injustice, repression and genocidal “occupation” can’t be shut down with “But, but THE HOLOCAUST,” is a great way of considering what comes “Afterward.”
As a filmmaker, psychotherapist Bloch puts Germany, Israel and the Palestinians on the couch and lets them see the one awful memory that binds them — trauma.
MPAA Rating: unrated, images of violence, nudity
Credits: Directed by Ofra Bloch. A 1091 release.
Running time: 1:35