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TIFF 2021 Review: The Devil’s Drivers -“A risky endeavour”

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Palestinian drivers smuggle illegal workers into Israel while trying to avoid the military forces sent to catch them. 

Appropriately the opening shot has a driver talking on his cellphone while his car travels at a high speed across a desert road; the camera which never leaves him feels every bump along the way. The mission is to transport illegal Palestinian workers to better-paying jobs and employment opportunities in Israel.  Not everything occurs on the road as different drivers are introduced with their families as well as the social and economic circumstances in which they live.

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Co-directors Mohammed Abugeth and Daniel Carsenty have crafted a story that places the audience right in the centre of a desolate world where covert actions are needed to survive.  The roughly assembled production with the shaky camera and abrupt fades to black contribute to the sense of urgency along with the pulsating music.  It is amazing how much access Abugeth and Carsenty have been given to the drivers and the individuals who keep them on the road.  A clever silhouetted animated sequence provides the history and context of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

There are no comments from Israeli officers; however, their presence is felt such as the dramatic moment when a military jeep appears in the middle of the road and Daniel Carsenty gets questioned off camera.   It is a risky endeavour but this only serves to emphasize the spirit and determination of those involved with the smuggling operation.  Some members eventually leave while others remain as they cannot see any other way for supporting their families.  The decade long endeavour to bring the documentary to the big screen was well worth the effort.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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