New take on real-life hijack drama in ‘7 Days in Entebbe’

Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruehl play two German militants in ‘7 Days in Entebbe’. (Courtesy Berlinale)
Updated 22 February 2018
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New take on real-life hijack drama in ‘7 Days in Entebbe’

BERLIN: The counter-terrorism plot seems more far fetched than many action thrillers, yet “7 Days in Entebbe,” which premiered at the Berlin film festival Monday, depicts a real-life airline hijack drama.
The movie recounts what is often called the most audacious hostage rescue mission ever staged, Israel’s 1976 “Operation Thunderbolt” in Uganda, but aims to be more than a tale of military heroism.
Instead Brazilian director Jose Padilha (“Narcos“) explores the harrowing events from multiple perspectives: that of the hijackers and their hostages, and of the Israeli leaders forced to decide whether to negotiate or fight.
Several previous movies, said Padilha, had depicted “a gigantic military feat and ignored the interaction between the hostages and their hijackers and the political aspects in Israel.”
Padilha, a previous Berlinale winner for “Elite Squad,” said he had met former hostages, flight crew and Israeli political and military veterans to get beyond the “standard military narrative.”
The battle between Israel’s then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the more hawkish defense minister Shimon Peres helps illustrate why there is still no Middle East peace, said the director.
“You see the dynamic, you realize how difficult it is for a politician in Israel to negotiate” with the enemy, Padilha said, adding that this was true on both sides of the conflict and “still true today.”
The hijacking of a Paris-bound Air France flight from Tel Aviv was a joint plot of Palestinian militants and their far-left German backers, who saw themselves as anti-imperialist revolutionaries.
The militants — the two Germans are portrayed by Daniel Bruehl (“Good Bye, Lenin!“) and Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl“) — took over the flight after an Athens stop-over.
After a refueling stop in Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, they headed to Entebbe, Uganda, then ruled by brutal dictator Idi Amin, who is described in the film as a “lunatic” who feeds his enemies to crocodiles.
The divergent motivations of the kidnappers become evident in the film when they separate out Jewish passengers, Israelis as well as non-Israelis, in scenes that chillingly evoke the Holocaust.
Bruehl’s character Wilfried Boese, a book-seller who considers himself an anti-fascist urban guerrilla, is portrayed as increasingly troubled.
As the cracks widen, a Palestinian militant angrily tells Boese: “You are here because you hate your country. I am here because I love mine.”
The fear of a Jewish bloodbath also drives Rabin’s cabinet, where Peres puts together a plan involving 100 commandos in under-the-radar flights who launch a surprise raid using a fake presidential limousine.
On day seven, the special forces shot dead all the kidnappers and scores of Ugandan troops while rescuing all but four of the remaining 106 hostages.
The only Israeli soldier killed was unit commander Yonatan Netanyahu, the elder brother of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On their way out, the Israeli forces blew up Uganda’s fleet of Soviet MiG fighters, although the film does not depict the fiery end of the operation, instead interspersing the battle scenes with a dance choreography.
The new version, based in part on testimony from flight engineer Jacques Lemoine, shows Boese deciding against massacring the Jewish passengers before he goes down in a hail of bullets.
“The hostages had got into his head,” Padilha told a press conference on the movie, which is screening out of competition, adding that this had helped to “save their own lives.”
Asked whether he was ready for a “backlash” against showing “terrorists with a conscience,” the director said that, although they do “terrible, inexcusable things... terrorists are human beings.”


West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

Updated 46 min 11 sec ago
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West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

  • The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle.”
  • The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.

LONDON: London theatergoers used to spectating in comfort are in for a rude awakening after the authors of a play swapped the traditional plush velvet seating for wooden benches and covered the floor with soil to simulate the feel of a migrant camp.
The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle,” whose authors hope their play will stoke debate about migration.
“People often hold strong opinions about this subject because it doesn’t seem to have any immediate answer,” said Joe Murphy, 27, who co-wrote the play.
“Discussion is the only think that is going to get us forward ... and hopefully this play can provide some of that space for debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Co-author Joe Robertson said the pair had “tried to depict both the terrible conditions that existed in the Jungle camp, but also the hope that existed in that place.”
Up to 10,000 people seeking ways to reach Britain used to live in the giant slum before it was cleared by authorities in late 2016.
Immigration remains a major political issue across Europe, as well as in the United States, where the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border has caused an international outcry.
Several European leaders including those of France, Germany, Italy and Austria are to hold talks on Sunday to explore how to stop people from moving around the European Union after claiming asylum in one of the Mediterranean states of arrival.
Murphy and Robertson, 28, based the script on their experience as volunteers in Calais, where they ran a temporary theater within the camp.
The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.
“There were 25 different nationalities of people all forced to live side by side often on top of each other and the phenomenal story about that place was people did make an effort to come together,” said Robertson.
Theatre-goers are invited to seat at the tables of the camp’s makeshift Afghan café, where the action unfolds.
“The closer you are to the audience the better the message is delivered,” said actor Ammar Hajj Ahmad, who plays one of the leading characters.
Ahmad, from Syria, is one of many actors from a refugee background featured in the play. Several asylum-seekers the authors met in Calais are also part of the cast.
“I am proud of this, I love telling stories ... about the many people who lived in Calais,” said cast-member Mohamed Sarrar, a musician from Sudan who arrived in Britain two years ago.
The play, which premiered at another London theater The Young Vic, last year, runs from July 5 to November.