Director: Omri Bezalel

Genre: Fiction

Category: Drama

Production: Ilan Arboleda, Hezi Bezalel, Omri Bezalel, Vince P. Maggio / USA 2023

Cast: Eden Epstein, Anthony DeSando, Eric Freeman, Juliet Brett, Luke Slattery, Michael Hsu Rosen, Simon Belz, Erika Burke Rossa

Language: English, Arabic

Subtitles: English

Length: 96 minutes

”Listen” is a coming-of-age film that follows the story of Dara Nevo, a young and dedicated Israeli intelligence officer, as she leads her team in a race against time to find a captive soldier before her father’s killer is released in a prisoner exchange. Dara must navigate the complex web of personal and professional relationships and choose between loyalty to her loved ones and the duty to her country in this unique and daring portrayal of the moral ambiguity, love, and loss faced by soldiers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Director's statement:

Before each mission in the military, we played the “Headlines Game,” guessing what our headline would be in the next morning’s newspaper if we were killed that night. This dark humor helped us cope with being 20-year-old boys-turned-men, tasked with taking sometimes difficult actions to protect the country we love.

Years later, a friend who had served in Unit 8200, the elite intelligence unit that is the subject of this film, shared the unit’s tradition of hanging ironic obituaries of their targets: terrorists who were listened to their death by soldiers with headphones.

I realized it was irrelevant whether you were a 24-year-old Naval Commando or a 19-year-old girl wearing headphones in an office in Tel Aviv. We all need a way to deal with an impossible situation.

We have seen many films about the Commando, but we rarely focus on those who gather the intelligence that allows the lone soldier to go on his missions. In the vein of Zero Dark Thirty and The Lives of Others, this film explores what it does to a soldier’s psyche to intimately know their enemy and his family, and to kill him not with weapons but with brains.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex but often simplified into polarizing black and white. This film delves into the gray area. How do you weigh lives against one another when the nature of war is that some lives are worth more? In a country where every civilian is at one point a soldier, where do you draw the line between soldier and civilian? How do you protect a country while retaining your humanity, sanity, and even sense of humor? How do you do the right thing, and who decides what the “right” thing is?

Once we’ve decided what’s good and what’s evil, we are dead creatively. Once there’s judgement, there’s no journey. The film tries to avoid both by presenting a situation and characters who do what they think is right. While we may not agree with the characters or their actions, and while their actions may not change our minds about the situation, these characters open us to a different point of view: soldiers aren't ruthless executioners, terrorists aren't emotionless murderers, Palestinians aren't helpless victims, and Israelis aren't stoic occupationists. They are all people in a conflict zone who want the same things people everywhere want—to love, to laugh, to feel safe. And so they do what people everywhere do. Their best.