XTR & Mark It Zero
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Daniel Carsenty, Mohammed Abugeth
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/3/21
Opens: November 14, 2021 at New York’s Cineapolis Chelsea

During the last U.S. presidential administration, the chief executive succeeded in banning legal immigration from seven Muslim countries. Mr. Trump declared that people from those areas were bound to include boatloads of terrorists. A similar situation can be found in Israel. The Israeli government threatens long prison terms for Bedouins in the Negev desert who are smuggled into Israel proper for jobs. Israel has a policy that appears paranoid; the belief that single men, people with no families, are more likely than those married with children to be up to no good, even supporters of Isis.

However the sophomore documentary photographed over twelve years by Daniel Carsenty and Mohammed Abugeth implies that Israel is wrong to forbid hard-working single Bedouins to find work in Israel’s black market. The Jewish state inflicts harsh punishment on the perpetrators, destroying their houses and even the houses of their neighbors who are considered collaborators.

Opening on Ali, an elderly sheep farmer suspected of being a spotter for a smuggler, the focus of the story is on thirty-something Hamouda who lives south of Hebron but cannot support his wife and kids on the twelve dollars a day he would receive in his native grounds. Better for him would be the forty-five dollars expected by Bedouins taking the risk of driving across the desert into Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. Hamouda keeps one hand on his cell phone and the other on the wheel, in regular communications with spotters. Those of us in the U.S. familiar with speeding interstate truck drivers would notice a similar attitude, communicating with their fellows on the road while looking out for police vehicles.

Co-director Carsenty doubling as photographer with hand held cameras—seemingly several types formats including even i-Phone videos—shows that Hamouda and his cousin Ismail have little intention to give up their jobs as coyotes despite serving months in jail.

Surprisingly, despite the tough talk by Israeli soldiers who threaten smugglers with jail and who act in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling enjoining the destruction of houses, they allow the credentialed filmmakers to record the confrontations.

The film presents another putdown of Israeli arrogance, though a nuanced view might justify at least some of the harshness given the dangers that the state faces from Intifadas and terrorist attacks against innocent civilians. Obviously a budget production, “The Devil’s Drivers,” which appears to promise an action thriller by its very title, is not the sort of film an action-loving crowd would favor. Its ideal venues would be film festivals and arthouse theaters.

In Arabic with English subtitles.

90 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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