In the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War, novelist Amos Oz and Avraham Shapira borrowed a reel to reel tape recorder, and interviewed those coming home from the war about their experiences. The tapes severely undermined the ideal of Israeli heroism, and were censored. Now, almost 50 years later, those who recorded the tapes listen back to their words as the tapes are released for the first time.
Censored Voices is an interesting documentary; not only does it capture the feeling of Israelis in the aftermath of the divisively successful war, but also the feeling of those who fought in the war, not always knowing what they were fighting for.
Director Mor Loushy has blended together the audio from the tapes with archive footage and newsreels from ABC. What emerges is a picture that could be painted of any war; exhausted, bewildered soldiers who have little faith in what they are doing. Loushy makes sure that the idea of soldiers wanting fulfil their ‘historic duty’ and up national morale clashes with the feeling they have in the immediate aftermath is underlined. Full of pride going in, disillusioned and feeling ‘evil’ coming home is quite the contrast, and one that comes across strongly in the film.
Having the people who recorded the tapes – Ilan Lotan, Yossi Limor, Pinchas Leevitan and Elisha and Amitai Shelem, among others – listen to their words almost 50 years later is also an interesting idea. There is the feeling of Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence about it all, and the changes wrought within the men in the intervening years becomes apparent. That said, there is not enough of this, and enough discussion of the years since the war for the film to be as impactful as it could have been. This means that the film becomes a curiosity, even though the fall out from this short and violent war is still being felt.
In all, Censored Voices is a film that would have been hard hitting at the time, but now becomes a meditation on war as a whole. The tapes are filled with honesty and unflinching statements, and contrasting this with the men’s responses now is a strong idea, but there is not enough time and focus given to this for the film to move from curiosity to a compelling film.