Letter to a Refusing Pilot

Akram Zaatari

2013 | 00:34:00 | Lebanon | Arabic | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Art History, Middle East, War, Youth/Childhood

Zaatari’s contribution to Lebanon’s Pavilion at the Venice Biennial 2013. This video offers a portrait of a public school and a tribute to those refusing illegal military orders.

"During the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982, a rumor circulated throughout Akram Zaatari’s hometown, Saida. It was said that an Israeli fighter pilot was ordered to bomb a school there but refused and instead dumped his bombs into the sea. Mr. Zaatari, 47, an artist who now lives in Beirut, first heard this story when he was 16 years old. His father was the founder of the school, which was eventually bombed by another pilot and severely damaged.

Over the years, Mr. Zaatari heard versions of the same tale, with varying explanations for the actions of the pilot, and he came to regard it as a legend of sorts. He once referred to the story during a lecture that was transcribed and published in a book, and came to discover that it was no rumor and that the pilot did exist. His name was Hagai Tamir. When Mr. Zaatari was selected to represent Lebanon at the 55th Venice Biennale, which runs until Nov. 24, he chose to focus on this Israeli pilot’s act of conscientious objection with a quiet, evocative, film, Letter to a Refusing Pilot.

“The importance of the story is that it gives the pilot a human face,” Mr. Zaatari said. “It gives what he is about to bomb, which is considered terrorist ground; it also gives that a human face. I think it’s important to remember in times of war that everyone is a human being. Taking it to this level humanizes it completely, and we’re not used to this at all.”"

– "Lebanese Artist Explores ‘Human Face' of Conflict", Nina Siegel, New York Times, June 19th, 2013

Director of Photography: Bassem Fayad

Editing: Jowe Harfouche 

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Venice Biennial

Exhibitions + Festivals

Toronto International Film Festival, 2013
Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2013
Rotterdam International Film Festival, 2013
Nantes 3 Continents, 2013