It is not at all surprising that “Incitement,” directed by Yaron Zilberman, was Israel’s submission for an Oscar for best foreign film. This is Israeli moviemaking at its best.
Zilberman takes a story we know too well, starting with the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestinians on the White House lawn in 1993. Immediately, right-wing Israeli protests break out around the country. And immediately, Zilberman begins to tell the story of Yigal Amir, the convicted assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, by interweaving Amir’s efforts to organize demonstrations against the Oslo Accords at Bar-Ilan University, where he was studying law.
It is that incredibly seamless interlocking of original video, some from Israeli television screens, with movie footage of Amir, that makes this film simply phenomenal. Viewers watch what they know is actual material filmed from 1993 to 1995, and suddenly we see the actor who plays Amir appear in the next scenes.
And that’s another amazing aspect of this film: the actors look exactly like the actual people who populated this story that changed the course of Israeli history forever.
There have been several films about the Rabin murder, from different perspectives. Yet, this film succeeds in telling us more, this time from the assassin and his family’s point of view. We see his father’s willingness to believe in peace juxtaposed with Amir’s fanaticism and desperate desire to halt the government’s efforts to make peace with the Palestinians. At the same time, Amir’s mother believes her son is infallible. “You’re destined for greatness!” she tells him.
The thread that sews the story together is Amir’s struggle to find rabbis who support his contention that Jewish law agrees that Rabin should be murdered. He researches Jewish law about “pursuers” and “informers” and decides that Rabin fits the definition, thus justifying what he intends to do. His brother, a munitions expert, is part of his scheme, and later serves several years in prison where Yigal still sits.
When asked if he found rabbis who agreed with his decision to kill Rabin, the assassin answers, “each in his own way.” And that’s the deeper part of the story that remains very much alive in Israel today.