MIFF Review: Death in the Terminal

Easily placing itself as one of the most important and terrifying films screening at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, Death in the Terminal is also one of its best. Both as an exercise is exploring human behaviour and a window into our own voyeuristic tendencies, Asaf Sudry and Tali Shemesh’s profoundly engaging documentary makes us complicit in the tragedy it reveals. Stunning.

Welcome to Israel on Sunday 18 October, 2015. It’s a hair’s breath before 7:30pm at the Beersheba Bus Terminal as the weekend winds down. Suddenly a hail of bullets ring out through the terminal, an Israeli soldier is killed and, as if by some biological switch, everyday commuters revert to a vigilante mob as they descend on the suspect and deal him a brutal beating. All of this is caught on CCTV and all of this we, the viewer, get to experience first hand.

At a thrift 52 minutes, film makers Sudry and Shemesh have fashioned a blistering examination of human nature in contemporary society. The outlandish yet real place reaction of the people who choose not to run from the gunfire but instead overwhelm the suspected gunman, the sheer brutality of the mob’s attack on him, and how quickly we revert to basic pack hunter behaviour is in turn breath taking and terrifying.

How do we behave in situations of crisis? How do people respond who live in societies framed around a perpetual cycle of crises? At what point does the rule of law be forgotten and lawless dictate your actions? Is what they are doing ‘right’?

And, what if the subject of this beating was not the culprit?

By presenting this horrifying tragedy ‘as it happened’ and giving no moral opinion, the film deftly squares the viewer as voyeur and forces you to challenge these notions of heroism against the questions of morality.

This is a flawless film. Shocking, engaging and timely for the world we live in today. Even when surrounded by all the modern conveniences, high level surveillance and state of the art technology, just how easy is it to revert to our most basic instincts? An absolute must see.