Azimuth is a film about two opposing soldiers who have to depend on each other for survival. In the moments just after the Six-Day War ended, an Egyptian soldier wakes up in the wreckage of what’s left of his comrades. On the other side of things, three Israeli soldiers try to get a supply truck out of the desert dirt. These two sides are on a collision course. But do the sides come together to form a great film or to cancel each other out?
In 1967, Israel fought a war against Egypt (then known as the United Arab Republic), Syria, and Jordan. The war lasted all of six days. However, it was brutal, attributing to the death of more than 20,000 people. The war only served to add to the animosity these countries already have for each other. Religious division and repeated conflicts throughout history made it next to impossible for these opposing sides to ever settle things.
It’s at the very end of the six-day war where Azimuth picks up. We’re shown grainy, black and white footage of tanks and bombers and other weapons of war in action. It all culminates on a pair of eyes, those of Rashid (Sammy Sheik). They are closed. But as we shift from black and white to color, Rashid opens his eyes. He lifts up to find himself at the center of carnage. Everyone is dead. Except him. Now, the only thing to do is survive.
On the other side of the line is Moti (Yiftach Klein), an Israeli soldier who is trying to get a supply truck out of the desert dirt. Two fellow soldiers are there to help but to no avail. The truck is not going anywhere. So, Moti leaves with a functioning jeep to find help. The other two soldiers stay behind to guard the supplies.
For gamers, this moment is like the cinematic version of trying to take down that one last guy in Call of Duty or Overwatch.
Rashid is crawling across the desert while Moti is happily driving. But the jeep breaks down at an abandoned building. And it’s there where Rashid makes his move to take down one more enemy, despite all the strength sapped from him after crossing the desert alone.
At the abandoned building is where the meat of Azimuth takes place. It’s a tense sequence that spirals through the dilapidated building. For gamers, this moment is like the cinematic version of trying to take down that one last guy in Call of Duty or Overwatch. You’re circling each other, being careful not to make a mistake. Here, the two soldiers work hard only to end up wounding each other.
At the heart of Azimuth is hope.
Azimuth is beautiful from frame to frame. From breathtaking vistas of the vast golden lands of the Middle East to gut-wrenching close-ups of the leads. The film does not waste a single shot. And one of the most astonishing parts of the directorial control happening here is that this is director Mike Burstyn’s first ever film. And he’s 71.
Azimuth bounces back and forth between the lives of the two soldiers. Through flashbacks, we learn about what is in their heart. Through dialogue, we learn how much they don’t want to be enemies. They don’t necessarily want to be friends either, but that’s one of the central concepts of this film. We don’t have to be either friends or enemies. We can just share what creation has given us and leave each other in peace. But politics and culture create clashes.
At the heart of Azimuth is hope. The hope that humanity can get it’s act together and ride off into the sunset together. Or at least not be at each other’s throats. At the end of the day, it’s the same sky above use and earth below us.