Nearly 10,000 Palestinians are incarcerated in Israel today. Most Israelis regard these “security prisoners” as murderers and criminals. To the Palestinians, however, they are freedom fighters, heroes and martyrs in the making. Granted extraordinary access to the highest-security institutions, renowned filmmaker Shimon Dotan uncovers a startling truth: Israeli prisons have become a breeding ground for the next generation of Palestinian leaders and a hotbed for terrorist plots.
Dotan focuses his camera on everyday prison life. What emerges is a telling glimpse of the prisoners as informed thinkers who are immersed in the details of the centuries-old conflict through newspapers and television. Dotan interviews inmates who are committed to negotiations as well as others who are unrepentant about their participation in suicide bombings. The cold-blooded testimony of a female Hamas leader, proudly serving 16 life sentences for blowing up a Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, is perhaps the most chilling.
Israel’s prisons have evolved into virtual incubators for Palestinian nationalism, strengthening inmates’ ideology and forging a political force that impacts far beyond their walls. Eschewing the simplistic “white hat, black hat” mentality that dominates discussions of terrorism today, Dotan's brilliantly constructed, disturbingly provocative film is both a humanizing force and an alarming wake-up call.— David Courier, Sundance Film Festival
Shimon Dotan, Producer and Director, was born in Romania in 1949 and moved to Israel in 1959; grew up in an agricultural cooperative, served in the Israeli Navy, and then studied fine arts at Tel Aviv University. He also served as president of the Israeli Diving Federation. Dotan has taught filmmaking at Tel Aviv University and at Concordia University in Montreal. Presently he works out of New York and Montreal
Dotan's films have enjoyed both critical acclaim and commercial success. His debut writing/directing/producing effort, Repeat Dive, which chronicles Dotan's own experiences as a member of Israel's elite Navy Commando unit, won three Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and was selected for the official competition at the Berlin Film Festival. He followed that effort with two short quasi-documentaries, Souvenirs from Tel Aviv (chronicling a demonstration against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon) and Souvenirs from Hebron (which followed an Israeli military patrol on its rounds through the Casbah of the Arab town). His 1986 feature film The Smile of the Lamb written, produced (with Jonathan Aroch), and directed by Dotan, a further exploration of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, won numerous awards including the Silver Bear at Berlin and six Israeli Academy Awards, including those for Best Director and Best Picture. In 1991, Dotan directed The Finest Hour for 21st Century, starring Rob Lowe, Tracy Griffith and Gale Hanson. Warriors, a commercially successful feature was produced and directed by Dotan in 1994 and starred Academy Award nominee Gary Busey and Michael Pare. In 1996 Dotan directed and produced Coyote Run, starring Peter Greene, Macha Grenon and Michael Pare'. The critically acclaimed You Can Thank Me Later was produced (with Netaya Anbar) and directed by Dotan in 1998, staring Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Plummer Genevieve Boujold and Mary McDonnell. In 1999/2000 Dotan produced four films; The List with Ryan O'Neal and Ben Gazara, Cause of Death with Patrick Bergin and Michael Ironside, Wilder with Pam Grier Romano Orzari and Rutger Hauer and Hidden Agenda with Dolph Lundgren and Maxim Roy.
The critics have been very receptive and praising of Dothan's fine work, calling it ". Visually stunning and lyrical ... of breathtaking beauty and power". The Hollywood Reporter considered Repeat Dive "a gripping study of the psychological effects upon those who live in a country where war and death are a constant reality", and the Los Angeles Times said that Dotan "has a keen eye for capturing a flickering spark of repressed emotions".
In 1992 Dotan, together with partner Netaya Anbar, established Cinequest Films Inc., which produces feature films out of Montreal and New York.