Closed Circuit – Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema 2023

Footage from Sarona in Closed Circuit. Courtesy of DOC NYC.

While Closed Circuit is a documentary that is about a terrorist attack, the film manages to find the humanity when it comes to the survivors.

June 8, 2016 is a date that many people will remember and likely for the rest of their lives. It is on this date that people were running and screaming at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, Israel. The market had only been open since 2015 prior to two gunmen shooting up the Max Brenner Cafe, killing four and injuring others. Interestingly, neither Palestinian men had any criminal record. All that we know is that the two were inspired by ISIS. One of them is a member of Hamas. As I get into later, the filmmakers do not interview them on camera. Personally speaking. I’m not going to glorify the terrorists by naming them on this site. In any event, the defense lawyers would hand filmmaker Tal Inbar all of the files and security camera footage.

There have been so many terrorist attacks in Israel that one can’t help but feel numb hearing about a new one. Even with the survivors featured in this film, there are those who can’t even watch the film given their PTSD. Or, in the case of others, they did the interviews but then went off the grid altogether. In any event, I could not help but watch them share their stories while the closed circuit footage is playing out on screen. Some lost a family member or got injured or were forever changed as a result of June 8, 2016.

The filmmakers did see about interviewing the two terrorists but they were not available. This is for the best. I don’t know what it is that leads terrorists to shoot up a popular market and there is nothing they could say that would lead me to feel any empathy or sympathy for them. At the same time, the shorter run time prohibits the film from really getting into the media coverage, especially the anti-Israel bias in some of the reporting. For the most part, the film focuses on the trauma that the survivors have to deal with. Some of the people in the film have blanked out certain moments from the evening. Others are no longer making future plans because they cannot take the next day for granted.

If you went into the film assuming that all of the victims are Jewish, you’d be wrong. There are Arab/Palestinians who were working or eating at the Sarona Market and their lives are forever changed. Ibrahim Agbaria’s story is particularly moving. His family was breaking a Ramadan fast and eating out to celebrate his wife’s birthday. He mentions how his son called him in the aftermath after police overheard him speaking in Arabic. Whenever there’s a terrorist attack in Israel, this is the type of stuff that happens because more often that not, Arabs are the ones to be seen as terrorists. It’s been a few years but here’s a family that would later split up and get divorced. That night changed him, for better or worse.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the film is that a cop unknowingly brought a terrorist into his apartment. It’s only after checking out what happened and seeing the other gunman handcuffed on the ground in which he put two and two together. While the apartment footage looks similar to the rest of the film, it’s a complete reenactment.

Inbar’s initial plan was to make a narrative feature. Instead, the filmmaker made a documentary from watching the closed circuit footage. I’m not sure that a narrative feature would have the same impact. It’s a more powerful film as a result of watching the interviews and seeing the footage. This decision places the audience alongside the victims as they run and scream for their lives. One wrong move and it could have ended in injury or death.

The film initially premiered during Docaviv Festival last May and then held its North American premiere during DOC NYC last year. Given the subject content, it’s not the sort of film one expects to see during an Israeli film festival. In any event, it’s a documentary that I definitely recommend watching. While the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema is both in-person and virtual, the film is only screening in person. If you can make it out to a screening, it’s definitely worth it. The film runs just under an hour–in addition, producer Nancy Spielberg is participating in a post-screening Q&A.

FEATURING: Nir Edelman, Halely Tal, Hagi Klein, Ibrahim Agbaria, Lihi Ben Ari, Daniel Salganik, Yousef Jabarin

Closed Circuit (Bema’agal Sagoor) holds its Chicago premiere during the 2023 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.