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Promised Lands
 
 

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PROMISED LANDS


Directed by | Susan Sontag

Genre documentary  |  Length: 87mins  |  Year of production: 1974


Susan Sontag’s only documentary, Promised Lands was filmed in the aftermath of the October 1973 war and initially banned by Israeli censors wary of “damaging the country’s morale”’. Recently rereleased after being inexplicably forgotten, this immediately unique essay film marks a critical moment in Zionist society, but also in Sontag’s own thinking on images and power.

Against a back of post–war anomie and anti–Arab sentiment, her film traces fault lines in a militarised society, combining observational meditations (landscapes, military patrols, cinemas, cemeteries, psychiatric wards, national museums) with profound interviews (with author Yoram Kaniuk and physicist Yuval Ne’eman). A prominent public intellectual at the time of its making, Sontag was already penning her celebrated essays On Photography, stressing that medium’s acquisitive violences and desensitizing effects. That she chose to turn her own lens onto images of faraway wars and the spectacle of human suffering at the same moment raises fascinating questions, making Promised Lands not just an exceptional document of a critical juncture in Middle East history, but also compelling viewing for anyone engaging with Sontag’s work.