A Reel War: Shalal

History is written by the victors, but is it also archived by them?

A Reel War: Shalal While researching an Israeli archive, a filmmaker stumbles upon reels of film from a long-lost PLO archive seized by Israel during the 1982 Lebanon War. As she tries to decipher the never-before-seen Palestinian footage, our filmmaker realizes that what she has found is only a fragment of a larger lost archive. She clashes with the Israeli defense bureaucracy, which denies having any more footage. Will she find more of these untold stories? And what is so dangerous about them that they must remain hidden?

A Reel War. Shalal (2021) on IMDb

Festivals and Awards

LaurelIsraeli Documentary Awards | Best Research | Nominated
LaurelOther Israel Film Festival 2022
Laurel42nd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2022
LaurelDMZ International Documentary Film Festival 2022


I Showed Palestinians the Footage That Israel Looted. They Started to Cry” – Haaretz

Podcast: Karnit Mandel interview Americans for Peace Now

A Reel War Shalal Q+A with Director Karnit Mandel and Najla Said” – Other Israel Film Festival

Exposes the realities of Israel's 'nation-building'” – Truthout

The Producers

Director – Karnit Mandel
Karnit Mandel (born in Jaffa, 1977) is a director and visual researcher specializing in historic and Middle Eastern footage. She graduated Summa cum Laude from Tel Aviv University film department and worked as a picture researcher and consultant for celebrated Israeli documentaries. Among her films, Burning the Leaven (2006) was nominated best debut film director in the Israeli Documentary Awards. Her research projects include work with the Tel Aviv History Museum, the series Kibbutz & Jaffa-Tel Aviv. She has also worked on the documentaries Kafka's Last Story, Life as a Rumor, The Hebrews, Lebowitz, The Next World, The Go-Go Boys (by Hilla Medalia), and more.

Producer – Gil Sima
Gil Sima is an independent film and TV producer. Gil founded Sima Films, an independent Production company whose creations include: Concerned Citizen, Mini DV, Shalaal: A Reel War, Hounds, Set Me as a Seal, and Girl Talk, which were showcased at Sundance, Berlinale, Locarno, AFI, and LFF among others. They were broadcast on platforms including Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Fandor, Yes Docu (IL), Channel 8 (IL) and Canal+. Between 2011 and 2015, Sima worked as an executive producer at Alma films, a leading Israeli Production company specializing in foreign co-productions. Between 2016 and 2019, Sima was Executive Director of “TLVFest, the Tel-Aviv International LGBTQ Film Festival”.

Making The Film

Imagine that your country has no archives. You search for your national past, only to find that the drawers are empty, the films have been burned, and your history, wrapped up in the national memory, is gone. You are now at the mercy of others if you want to understand who you are.

A Reel War is a film about a war fought without live ammunition; a struggle not for land and property, but for history itself; a war for access to historical records and visual archives, and for the right to tell the stories and identities they contain.

It is a local yet universal story about the consequences of archive confiscation, for both the confiscated and the confiscators.

The film tells the story from the perspective of a woman who decided to reveal the images that her country has looted; I was able to access the footage because I'm Israeli, but it's obviously not mine. So the film is about what happens when one side hijacks the stories of the other; about the Palestinian stories I have never heard, about the right to know what is being done in my name, and about responsibility towards memories, even if they are not mine. 

Visual archives shape our memories and future legacies. The lack of access to one's own archival material is detrimental to one's ability to make sense of one's own history. Palestinian visual memory is fragmented and scattered. Many had something that was taken from them, such as family albums, diaries or even entire libraries.

However, the film does not argue that Israel has engaged in a deliberate conspiracy to erase Palestinian memory. In most cases, military confiscations are carried out for intelligence purposes and to combat anti-Israeli propaganda. Nevertheless, the looted material is handled carelessly, with little regard for the consequences for the other side.

A Reel War is a story as relevant today as it was in 1982. Despite the internet and numerous television channels, we are still in the midst of a battle for Israel's historical memory. The battlefield today is one of narrative and recognition. I hope that A Reel War will shed new light on this long debate. 

(*SHALAL means "looting" in Hebrew and "paralysis" in Arabic).

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