As its title suggests, Avi Mograbi’s documentary presents like a textbook: with the director as narrator and guide, speaking directly into camera like a lecturer, the film interpolates talking heads from Israeli military strategists and ground operatives with archival footage to explain the psychology of an occupier. The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation makes its case for cinematic rather than manual form through what it can capture – or not – from its speakers.

One of the most striking sections sees an ex-soldier immediately hide his face when he corrects “we” to “I” when describing excessive force used on Palestinian civilians and their homes. He, like most of the interviewees, gives his name and face, but later one talking head stands out as the only blurred visage. These moments are far from humanising – the documentary remains coolly detached, refusing sympathy to the oppressors – but knowing that each interviewee was willing to speak with or without his face hidden drives home how this extreme system has been normalised.

It is impossible to call The First 54 Years apolitical – its biting, bitterly straightforward approach to the daily atrocities enforced by Israel that must continually escalate to maintain their regime throws the absurdity of these actions into relief. The fact that it does not overtly call for Palestinian liberation threatens to hobble its impact, but when the murdered and murderers – faces blacked out – are on screen, perhaps the statement is already made. Likewise, the film does not offer solutions, but its insight into the perpetrator’s minds and techniques are chilling enough to register that this situation should not be normal.

The First 54 Years – An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation weaves a frank picture of a complexly perceived situation. Its scientific profile of modern-day colonialism makes an almost-too-dispassionate case for the oppressed.



CAST: Avi Mograbi, Zvi Barel, Shlomo Gazit

DIRECTOR: Avi Mograbi

WRITER: Avi Mograbi

SYNOPSIS: This documentary provides an almost-textbook look into what it takes to invade and subjugate, using Israel and Palestine as its case study.