The First 54 Years—An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation

- FRANCE, FINLAND, ISRAEL, GERMANY / 2021 / Hebrew, English / Color, B&W / DCP / 110 min

Director, Script, Editing: Avi Mograbi
Photography: Philippe Bellaiche, Tulik Gallon
Sound: Joonas Jyrälä, Dominique Vieillard
Producers: Camille Laemlé, Serge Lalou, Annie Ohayon-Dekel
Production Company: Les Films d’Ici
Co-production: Arte France, 24images, Citizen Jane Productions, Avi Mograbi, ma.ja.de. Filmproduktions
World Sales: The Party Film Sales

It has been fifty-four years since the Israeli military occupied the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1967. This film is a “manual” of military strategy, assembled from testimonials by former Israeli soldiers collected by the NGO “Breaking the Silence” where the film’s director is a board member. Due to Israel’s conscription system, a majority of the Jewish population is directly or indirectly involved in the occupation. The First 54 Years asks to what extent individuals are strategically forced to comply with the violence, reveals the mechanisms behind it, and sounds the alarm about how a militaristic logic has come to dominate daily life.

[Director’s Statement] At first, I was convinced that indexing the soldiers’ testimonies within a logic of internal connections would be enough to tell the story of what is probably the longest occupation in modern history. I thought that a compilation of testimonies would autonomously bring forth the meaning of occupation: what it means to be an occupier, what it involves to sustain an occupation, and what kind of system the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories find themselves living under. It was clear to me from the outset that I would concentrate on actions, deeds, commands and mechanisms as the soldiers describe them, rather than on their reflections about these deeds.

But as editing progressed, I realized that I had to develop a framework that would contain the deeper meaning of this huge enterprise, the largest the State of Israel has undertaken in its 73 years of existence.

It was clear to me that in order for my project to be complete, I had to connect the very strong body of testimonies with some logic that would allow a deeper understanding of the reasons for the longevity of the occupation and the unlikelihood of its ending in the foreseeable future. Thus was born the Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation—a kind of instruction manual for operating a military occupation that deals not only with the “how” but also with the “why” of these provisions: what general purpose does this or that mechanism serve, and what is the occupier’s motivation when imposing a particular system of laws and rules on the inhabitants of the occupied territory.

- Avi Mograbi

Israeli filmmaker and video artist Avi Mograbi was born in 1956 in Tel Aviv, where he lives and works to this day. He is known for his unwavering commitment to social, cultural and political justice in the Middle East, as well as his experimentalism and innovative contribution to cinematic language. His filmography includes: Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi (1999, YIDFF ’99 Runner-up Prize), August (2002), which screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, Avenge But One of My Two Eyes (2005), which screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Z32 (2008, YIDFF 2009 Award of Excellence), Once I Entered a Garden (2012, YIDFF 2013) and Between Fences (2016).