Review: Documentary “A mirror for the sun” | Bob Abelman

“It’s important to me that Tamar be remembered for her charming personality and drive to succeed,” Anat Ariel said in a 2019 interview with The Jerusalem Post, five years after her 25-year-old daughter died. year. “I want his name to evoke values ​​such as perseverance, determination, love for his country, his people and his fellow men.”

The occasion for the interview was the announcement that the Defense and Heritage Division of Israel’s Ministry of Defense had recognized Captain Tamar Ariel as an officially fallen soldier – whom she died attempting to save lives even if she had not died by participating in an active Israeli Air Force military operation.

“It was extremely difficult to demonstrate how our case complied with the law,” Anat said. “There was already a lot of evidence, and we collected even more testimonies and refined others, which helped our case.”

In “A Mirror for the Sun”, director and screenwriter Neta Ariel tells the story of Tamar. Growing up in an Orthodox household in a southern Israeli moshav, Tamar completed her two years of voluntary national service and then joined the Israel Defense Forces. In January 2013, she completed her pilot training and became the first female religious navigator in the Air Force. Tamar took part in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, with the stated goal of stopping Hamas rocket attacks, and she was chosen as the unit’s most outstanding fighter.

In October 2014, Tamar went on a trip with friends to the Himalayas in Nepal. During a hike on the Annapurna trail, the group got stuck in a violent and unexpected snowstorm, during which Tamar immediately took charge, gave instructions, encouraged those met in along the way and warmed up those who were suffering from the intense cold. Tamar, three of her Israeli friends and many members of the international hiking group perished. But others have survived thanks to his efforts.

It’s a gripping story, but Neta Ariel’s 2018 documentary isn’t very gripping storytelling. Indeed, the film comes across as an hour-long collection of the kind of evidence and testimony that was used to support Tamar’s status as a fallen soldier rather than an exploration of the many trials, tribulations and triumphs that constituted a promising life cut short.

This is largely due to the overt sentimentality of the film’s narrative voice, generated by the footage and interviews selected by the director, who is Tamar Ariel’s aunt. He is encouraged by Amit Ben Atar’s mournful music that underlines much of the film, as well as Adva Shushan’s melodramatic editing.

Perhaps “A Mirror for the Sun” is missing because, as Neta Ariel’s first documentary, it lacks much of the finesse one would expect from a film making the festival circuit. It relies on single-camera interviews with former commanders, flight deck colleagues and fellow travelers, making the work very heavy on testimony. The non-linear storytelling adopted in the first half of the film – where the narrative goes back and forth between Tamar’s youth, military training and the Himalayan trek – does little better to relay the story. And in an ill-fated effort to enhance the drama of the Annapurna Trail photography, torrential snowfall is unnecessarily animated in the footage.

The documentary also suffers from its narrow focus and untapped issues in its 60-minute runtime. It has not been explored how Tamar’s prestigious role in the military became a symbol for many religious girls and had an even greater impact on the population of young Orthodox women considering meaningful military service. The opposition that Tamar faced – that all female pioneers face – when she crossed barriers has not been explored. Surely there were members of the Israeli army and the Orthodox Jewish community who were not very happy with Tamar’s exploits.

That Tamar has achieved so much in her 25 years of life – and that she has done so while embracing Jewish values ​​– is well captured in this documentary. That she continues to impact others even after her death is not.


Bob Abelman covers professional theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob on Facebook.com/BobAbelman3. It was named Ohio’s Best for Reviewers/Critics in the Press Club of Cleveland’s 2021 All Ohio Excellence in Journalism Awards.