Yet by focusing so insistently on Genet's retelling of what he has seen, to its service as his literary and personal inspiration--on a visit in 1970, he grew so enamored of the fedayeen, freedom fighters who took to the hills, that a planned eight-day visit lasted two years--Genet in Chatila replicates the colonialism it detests. The Palestinians become fodder for Genet's speculations on reality (can his mere marks on a page sum up what has happened?), his struggle to choke out more words before death claims him, and thereby lose their place once again. They become instruments of narrative and imagination rather than actors themselves. But Dindo plays that contradiction so deadpan that it's hard to discern any critical distance: He seems as enchanted by Genet's outlaw poses as Genet was by boys with guns.
The result is a problematic excursion--sometimes intriguing, sometimes self-undermining--through politics, memory, and the politics of memory: Can any text fully capture the texture of so fraught a reality, Dindo asks, or does it inevitably leave us holding mere shards of experience? Even when he's not at the top of his form, Dindo is a demanding filmmaker who answers some, but not all, of the questions he poses. Leaving the theater, you want to argue with him rather than yell at him. And how many directors offer that much generosity these days?
Picturing the past: The Execution of the Traitor Ernst S.