‘The Viewing Booth’ Review: Do You See What I See?
More than ever, the moving images – from body cameras monitoring police conduct, video review of sporting event decisions – claim to capture the indisputable truth. But can “evidence,” framed and based on human interpretation, really force us to see eye-to-eye?
In “The Viewing Booth”, filmmaker Ra’anan Alexandrowicz tests this hypothesis.
Shot at Temple University in a dark studio that resembles both a confessional and a laboratory, the documentary examines a young woman’s reactions to videos of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Distinguished from a wider range of students, Maia Levy, an American Jewish supporter of Israel, browses a selection of videos – mainly by human rights monitoring group B’Tselem – which she interrogates aloud voice, skeptical of their authenticity. In a video, Israel Defense Forces soldiers raid the home of a Palestinian family in the middle of the night, waking up and questioning several children. Levy, who we watch expressing his objections in a ruthless close-up from a computer camera’s point of view, is convinced that the video manipulates us into feeling empathy for the family. Alexandrowicz stares at the shared screen in an adjoining room, struck by Levy’s disbelief.
Six months later, Levy is invited to return to the studio to review footage of his responses, effectively replaying clips from the first half of the documentary with comments from Levy and Alexandrowicz. In short: the images are not enough to question his beliefs.
While moderately convincing to testify to an individual’s objections in real time, “The Viewing Booth” addresses grim truths about the viewer in the digital age that might have seemed new a decade ago. Inundated as we are by traumatic images and indiscriminate “fake news” claims, it’s no surprise that our ideological bubbles are actually quite difficult to burst.
The observation cabin
Unclassified. In English, Arabic and Hebrew, with subtitles. In theaters.
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