Hot House (2006). Dir. / Scr.: Shimon Dotan.
When Hot House was shown as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in London, it was received by the audience in stunned silence. The chilling reality the film portrayed made it almost impossible for us to extricate ourselves from its powerful message – there was too much to think about; we could not drag ourselves back easily into our world of banal complacency.
Written and directed by Shimon Dotan, and produced by Arik Berbstein, Jonathan Aroch, Dikla Barkal, and Shimon Dotan, Hot House presents a number of Palestinian male and female inmates in the Ber Sheba, Ashkelon, Hadarim, and Megiddo prisons in Israel. These inmates face the camera with confidence, announcing their sentences and crimes of terrorism as symbols of their patriotism and courage. With intellectual frigidity they pledge their existence to what they believe to be their Palestinian cause. In their minds, sending suicide bombers to kill a maximum number of Jews is a legitimate and significant act of political endeavor.
With considerable pride, witness after witness testifies to their allegiance to this mindset. Asked if they felt remorse after the death of innocent children, they immediately answer, “Of course not.” The same individuals who express love for their own families smile proudly at the idea of their own children becoming suicide bombers for the sakes of their cause. We are also shown scenes of young inmates educating themselves, learning Hebrew, and taking university degrees. This is no ignorant population.
Within the walls of these prisons an extension of the Palestinian state is being established, maintained, and developed with a certain amount of compliance by the Israeli guards. More experienced prisoners lead a population in the region of 8,000, establishing a governmental structure that replicates Palestine itself, communicating frequently with the world outside by secret messages, smuggled mobile phones, and other undisclosed methods.
Ron Klein's music adds considerably to the chilling effect. As the witnesses speak of their commitment to their intransigent beliefs, uneasy tones hover as a constant message in the background.
With unequivocal clarity Hot House brings into the open the ongoing conflict of interests that exist in the powder keg that is the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside. The struggle for Palestinians and Israelis for their right to land and a living remains unresolved while one culture is dominated by another, and while injustices remain unattended and unresolved.
Hot House is in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, with English subtitles.
© Rosemary Westwell
Arts Critic Rosemary Westwell has written for several publications, including “The Independent” and “Musical Opinion.”