________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 16. . . .December 18, 2009


Flipping Out.

Yoav Shamir. (Writer & Director).
Michael Sharfstein, Philippa Kowarsky & Kent Martin (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
82 min., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 0107 364.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

*** /4


Each Israeli male and female is expected to serve in the military for three years. Upon completion of this service, they are given a discharge payment. For thousands of these young ex-soldiers, the place to go is India. Here, 40 % will embrace a life of wild abandon, heavily influenced by easy access to drugs and total freedom. Unfortunately, some indulge to excess and suffer psychotic breakdowns known as “flipping out.”

     Flipping Out looks at a number of these ex-pats and chronicles their activities. Also featured are two very different people who take on the job of bringing those who have “flipped out” back to reality.

     The film starts in the north of India where the landscape looks beautiful. Pine trees and the fact that many people are wearing warm clothes show that this is a very temperate part of India. A vibrant Israeli community exists, and some have been there for a long time. Danny Winderbaum, 27, lives at Chabad House which has a substantial library. He clearly knows his way around. Once a heavy drug user himself, he is aware of the dangers of such a lifestyle. In the past year, he has embraced a Messianic Orthodox Judaism and is drug free. He learns of an Israeli who has gotten himself into some difficulty and plans to go get him and bring him back to Chabad House.

     Another retriever of lost Israelis, is Hilik Magnus, a former secret service agent who is hired by the Israeli government to find and bring home those who have “flipped out.” His motivation is more for national image as the person he is shown trying to find has been hiring workers to plant orange trees, promising to buy businesses while presenting himself as a wealthy investor. In reality, he has no money of his own. For his own safety, he must be taken away.

     Filmmaker Yoav Shamir tries to figure out what would cause these young people to indulge in such excesses. A number of times, he attempts to link what they may have done as soldiers to their desire to escape from the world in drugs and partying. Few agree with him. Or Pines, 23, formerly stationed in the West Bank, states that he “loved every second of being in the army” and “did nothing inappropriate” during his time as a soldier. When asked if he ever had to enter someone’s house, he states, of course, but “that is just unavoidable.” He simply did “what had to be done.” Juxtaposed to this statement is a scene of heavily armed Israeli soldiers patrolling outside houses and a family being held in one room while the soldiers search the house. Clearly Shamir does not see this as appropriate at all, but the speakers are allowed to talk. There is never any commentary that directly links their behavior in India to what they might have done as soldiers.

     Others are interviewed as well, all with different experiences, but all deep into the lifestyle. The scene shifts to Goa in southern India which is the base for the next season’s activities. Winderbaum has been here before, but the owner of the guest house remembers him as being very sick. Now, with his new embrace of religion, he is here on different terms. He is unable to shake her hand as men and women should not touch. He wants to see his old room and is amazed at how far he has journeyed since last there. The current occupant, not an Israeli, gives his views about the excessive use of drugs.

     As in the north, an Israeli infrastructure exists. Both religious and government houses serve the needs of the ex-soldiers. Winderbaum and Magnus continue their work in Goa, retrieving “lost” citizens and bringing them back either to sanity or home.

     Flipping Out is a disturbing film. The jewels of a society, its youth, have clearly lost their way. The reason for this is never really given. Although there is a connection to their time in the military, the film is not a condemnation of the Israeli action in Palestine. There is a problem, but, since the cause in unclear, the solution is even more so.

     This film would work well in a World History course, or Psychology, or Ethics. It runs a little long, and the subtitles, of which there are many, are difficult to read. For this reason, showing the entire film to a class may not work. However, there is much in the film that could be used in class to provoke discussion.


Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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