Land of the Little People: Controversial filmmaking in Israel

Land of the Little PeopleImagine this scene: the skies are blue, the birds are singing, and four children are playing joyfully in the woods. Now imagine these children covered with two soldiers’ blood as their own private war rages in the woods while a “real” war rages in the outside world. Welcome to Land of the Little People, an ambitious project by Palestinian film producer Tony Copti and Israeli director Yaniv Berman.

The Filmmakers

Copti and Berman have teamed up to make a gut‐wrenching controversial thriller about four young children who fight two army deserters in a bloody war over territory. According to Berman, growing up in a militarist society has had a lasting effect on his soul and on that of generations of children. Growing up in Haifa, Berman remembers from an early age how he and his friends used to play imaginary war games in the forests of the Carmel Mountain. At the age of 18, Berman joined the Israel Defense Forces. Following his service he created his award‐winning feature documentary The Alpha Diaries, portraying how the military service corrupts the mind of young soldiers.

Tony Copti, a Palestinian film producer who grew up in Jaffa, was the production manager of the Oscar nominated film Ajami (2009). In 2011, Tony created Fresco Films which was the executive production company of the feature film The Attack (2012) by Ziad Doueiri and Girrafada (2013) by Rani Massalha. In Land of the Little People Tony sees not only a strong story and a very challenging production, but also a very important message that puts the focus on one of the taboos in Israeli society – the connection between militarism and violence.

With this background, Berman and Copti set off to make Land of the Little People ‐ a war movie that takes place away from the “real” battlefield, but is as violent and fierce. Affected by their upbringing, the kids in the film make deadly decisions which shape their childhood.

Land of the little PeopleAbout the Story

The film begins as four 11‐year old children run in the wild growth, armed with bows and arrows. What seems to be an innocent children’s game at first glance, becomes more disturbing when we realize they are playing amongst the remains of a huge military facility. The children chase a small deer, which they intend to feed to a monster that rules their “playground”. This gurgling monster, which lies at the bottom of an ancient well in the middle of the old military facility, is at the epicenter of the story.

In this post‐apocalyptic‐like world, the children are the rulers. As the sun sets, they leave their camp, and go back to their homes in the real world, leaving behind the horrors of their imagination and emerge to the horrors of reality. Growing up in a militaristic society with an everlasting war raging in the background, the children know they have to toughen themselves in order to be prepared for when they are called to serve. With this perspective in mind, what seemed to be a dangerous playground is really a simulator preparing the children for real life in Israel.

As fighter jets tear through the sky, the children run home, only to find out that another war has begun. Hemi, the group’s leader, knows this might be the last time he sees his father, a military officer, and prepares himself to take his place and protect his pregnant mother.

As the group returns to the abandoned military camp, they face their most deadly challenge. Two deserters have decided to hide in the camp, right next to the ancient well and the lurking monster inside. Hemi can’t let the soldiers take over their territory, so he ignites a chain reaction, which leads to the two sides violently clashing with one another.

LOTLP 3The Challenge

Political and uncompromising in its social statement, this story touches at the very core of the Israeli inner conflict. The idea of Israeli children hunting down two IDF soldiers sounded outrageous to many in the Israeli film industry. Berman and Copti were asked to modify it, soften it, and even rewrite it into a children’s movie.

Nevertheless, they were determined to go forward, and have recently launched a teaser that has won an award at the International Movie Trailer Festival. Motivated by this, they went on to making a Kickstarter film. According to Copti, raising money with a Kickstarter campaign will help them make this film bigger and better, allowing them to acquire better means for special effects, props and makeup, but much more importantly “it will broaden the support to our cause.”

One thought on “Land of the Little People: Controversial filmmaking in Israel

  1. Looks interesting. Not the first exploration of the theme of ruthless, feral children of course, but taking the idea into the modern conflict in Israel/Palestine adds a contemporary twist.
    Regards from England, Pete.

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