The Sabra and Shatila Massacre was a great tragedy that occurred in 1982, when a large number of innocent civilians were brutally murdered by militia troops. “The Massacre,” a documentary consisting of a number of interviews with people who in this or that way took part in the tragedy, not only exposes the atrocity of the tragedy but also provides some valuable historical data on the topic.
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The movie “The Massacre” is one of the 15 episodes of a documentary series entitled “The War of Lebanon.” The series were filmed and produced by Al Jazeera Satellite Channel, and distributed around the world by Sabbah Media Corporation. They depict some important episodes which took place during the Lebanese Civil War in 1975-1990. The movies include interviews with key figures that took place in the events, as well as with eyewitnesses, and contain vast visual evidence filmed during the time of war. “The Massacre” is the tenth episode of the series, dealing with the events which occurred during the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in September 16-18, 1982, when approximately 800 to 3500 civilians were slaughtered by the militia troops close to the Kataeb Party, also known as the Lebanese Phalanxes Party (“The Massacre,” 2012; “The War of Lebanon,” n.d.).
The movie consists of a number of interviews with some people who were involved in the massacre or the events connected to it, such as individuals directly related to Elie Hobeika, a Lebanese Phalangist and a militia commander who is known to be largely responsible for The Massacre. Among the interviewees are Robert Hatem, Hobeika’s security chief; Michel Samaha, one of Hobeika’s closest political allies; Maurice Draper, the delegate of the U.S. President to Lebanon at the time; Ihud Ya’ari, who was working as an Israeli journalist at that time; and two eyewitnesses who became victims and lost their family in The Massacre. A brief overview of the situation that preceded the events is given, and the comments of some interviewees are provided. After that, a rather long period of time is devoted to eyewitnesses, who tell what they were able to see and how they survived during The Massacre. And, finally, at the end of the film, some opinions and facts are expressed regarding the key figures responsible for the massacre.
Definitely, one of the strengths of the movie is that the comments of individuals who were close to the ones responsible for the tragedy, and also involved in it themselves, provide a valuable insight into the situation that occurred. Also, the story told by the eyewitnesses, as well as numerous photos and videos depicting the scenes from the massacre allow the viewers to understand what The Massacre looked like. On the other hand, a potential weakness is that the episode on its own perhaps does not provide enough context for the viewers.
The movie might be said to mostly conform to the established historical vision of The Massacre. The Lebanese Phalangist Elie Hobeika is shown to bear a large part of the responsibility for the slaughter; his close associates and fellow party members are interviewed. Even they admit that Hobeika and Lebanese forces are to be blamed for The Massacre; it can be seen, for instance, on 38:10, 38:40-40:00, 40:50 of the movie (“The Massacre,” 2012).
The Israeli officials are also blamed for losing control over the situation. At 06:30-06:50, it is stated that the transfer of the militia troops was commented by Israel in a way that made it appear that the militiamen were a part of Israeli army that was to clean the place of some Palestinian troops and prevent possible slaughters and acts of revenge for the preceding assassination of Bachir Gemayel (“The Massacre,” 2012). Maurice Draper at 41:40 mentions that he called Ariel Sharon, the Minister of Defense of Israel at the time, and said that since Israel was supposed to have the full control over the area, the tragedy was its responsibility to a large extent (“The Massacre,” 2012).
The movie itself appears historically credible; even the members of the Lebanese Phalanxes do not deny their party’s responsibility for the events, even though they do try to “keep their face,” e.g. at 39:00-40:00 of the movie by saying that many other forces were guilty as well (“The Massacre,” 2012). The stories told by the eyewitnesses (especially the man) provide some details on how the slaughter occurred. There is, in fact, no artistic merit or acting in the movie; it only consists of fragments of interviews, pictures and episodes from the times of The Massacre, and the offscreen commentaries. As it was mentioned, the episode on its own perhaps lacks context for those who are not well-versed in the history of the conflict. On the other hand, the movie does capture the viewer’s attention, in particular by exposing the atrocities that took place during the tragedy.
To sum up, it should be noted that “The Massacre” is a documentary which provides valuable evidence regarding the Sabra and Shatila slaughter of 1982. Even though the episode on its own does not supply much information about the broader context, it offers important data related to the narrow topic of the slaughter itself.
The Massacre (Sabra and Shatila) HD. (2012). Web.
The War of Lebanon. Episode 10: The Massacre. (n.d.). Web.