On the ground floor of a concrete building, under the desert sun, some men are wandering aimlessly, crossing paths. From time to time, one of them climbs on a stool. “I seized power!” he tells the others, who react by assembling to protest against the new “dictator.” Where are we? Who are these people? Are they insane? And above all, where is Avi Mograbi?
The famous Israeli filmmaker starts each of his films by talking to the camera about how he turned an unsolvable problem into a movie. For once, instead, he remains silent.
A big wall, the only one devoid of windows, is filled with writings and signs that form an image so far unintelligible. It is clear that this hieroglyphic is a symbol: It represents a mystery that the film has to solve. What is it? In the middle of the wall there is a big snake, maybe an echo of Mograbi’s 2012 film, Once I Entered a Garden. But it’s a false clue. Between the Fences is not a garden. It’s a prison.
Those living there aren’t exactly prisoners. They are allowed to walk around, on certain conditions. They are asylum seekers. Since 2007, Israel has witnessed 50,000 of them enter its territory. They come from Eritrea and Sudan. In their home countries their lives are at risk, and therefore they are protected by international laws. Israel, which is less than welcoming of refugees, calls them “infiltrators.” But it can’t send them back. Therefore they are kept in the middle of the desert, hoping they decide to leave on their own.