Doron Tsabari and Uri Inbar’s ‘Revolution 101’ is a terrific rabble-rousing film, documenting their fight against the IPB (Israeli Public Broadcasting – Rashut Ha’Shidur). It is impossible to live here and not have heard at least bits and pieces of the IPB’s troubles in the past decade. Corruption, ineptitude, improper hiring, fiscal mismanagement- every few months, one noticed a new story, particularly during the direct government intervention during the reign of Yosef Barel, the former director of the organization. Director Tsabari, with the assistance of his producer and friend Inbar, has been intimately involved in attempting to correct these outrages.
After being employed in the IPB, Tsabari became intimately aware of the extent of the problems. His first step was to point out the absurdities in the budget -from people being paid despite not doing any work to outright incorrect math, which causes 10 million shekels to disappear every now and then- to the members of the board, which in turn lead to the board dismissing former director Uri Porat. But, as they say, ‘be careful what you wish for’. Barel (known as ‘Joe’) came in and, due to his friendship with then prime-minister Ariel Sharon, was able to corrupt the organization to an even greater extent than just fiscal mismanagement. And he makes for a wonderful villain for Tsabari.
Like the GM CEO that Michael Moore hounds in ‘Roger & Me’, Joe Barel faces Tsabari, who learns that, in order to truly revolutionize public broadcasting in Israel, Barel and his cronies must go, and that a new law must be passed in order to remove parliamentary influence on public broadcasting. Tsabari goes about this task, with no money, trying to gain co-conspirators in the Knesset and press, and by creating provocation wherever he can.
Tsabari’s methods strongly resemble Michael Moore’s – the film is presented with verve and great humor, but, unlike Moore, it has some credibility. One hopes that Tsabari doesn’t go the same route as Moore, lest the idealistic fight against power on display here and ‘Roger & Me’ be perverted into utterly untrustworthy polemics like Moore’s recent films. Unfortunately, even in this film Tsabari squanders some of the goodwill I had towards him. This film is a terrific documentary. But there is no question that it is in every fiber of its being a documentary. There has been controversy surrounding this film being in the Haggiag feature film competition- an award reserved for fiction films.
Tsabari and Inbar, under the guise of wanting to remove the boundaries between documentary films and fiction films, have in fact marred their film with what sounds like a rather petty move. There is absolutely no reason for this with this film. This film does have a staged prologue, and many of its scenes were either staged or restaged for dramatic effect (with the help of legendary cinematographer David Gurfinkel). But these have long been methods of documentaries and docudramas. I think that Tsabari and Inbar made a serious error by pushing this film into the fiction film competition. How can such selfless fighters against institutional corruption be taken at their word if there are questions about how they – without any just cause – forced their way into a category they’re not eligible for, simply because it is more prestigious?
This entirely appropriate controversy raises questions about Tsabari’s wishes for this film to set an example on how one can and should fight against corruption, and unfortunately, made me quite skeptical to see this film as a personal story of a man standing up to power. That being said – this film is still a very compelling and entertaining one, and does manage to inspire. Of the many powerful figures featured here, few come off particularly well – but it was wonderful to see Labor PM Eitan Cabel throw himself into this fight, and coming back to it even when it appears that he has good reason to jump ship. The overall view is a rather bleak one – but at least there are a few beacons of hope. Despite shooting themselves in the foot come recognition time, Tsabari and Inbar are to be commended for ‘Revolution 101’.