When the Boys Return

Here we follow a group of teenage boys in Hebron who are going through what no one should ever go through -- repeated imprisonment at the hands of soldiers. In this case, the soldiers are from the Israeli army, who throw many children and young people in prison for throwing stones. The boys' stone-throwing is a direct and sometimes indirect act of aggression toward the occupation, releasing what anger they can over lives that seem suspended in time. They feel that there's not much to look forward to in the days, months, or years to come, and feel the one thing they can count on is the next time they will be imprisoned by the Israelis. Some have been imprisoned for a few months, some a few years.


The film follows the boys through their lives at home and in group therapy sessions at the YMCA, where they begin to reveal to their counselor and to each other their thoughts, fears, and weak hopes. But the psychological and emotional scars from the repeated imprisonment are apparent. One of the boys has turned to self-injury to calm his rage, another sleeps fully clothed at night so that when the Israelis come to take him out of his home, he is "ready." In a particularly tough session in therapy, their counselor asked if they were familiar with their basic human rights. None of them were. As he explained to them that it was among their basic human rights to sleep comfortably in their homes, to come and go freely without harm, and so on, the boys' faces looked almost blank, like they had no idea these were ever their rights. When they were asked to paint pictures of what they thought their futures would be like, most of them created images of what was going on at the time instead.

There's a hidden uncertainty and tension in the title of this hour-long doc. When the boys return, maybe things will be better, maybe therapy will help or they will find opportunities for a better life elsewhere. But when the boys return things are often the same -- the political and emotional occupation these young boys experience seems never-ending.

When the Boys Return is a painfully beautiful film, subtle in its power, that leaves you saddened and angry for the kids in the film. These traumatized teens are but a handful of the thousands arrested in occupied Palestine. A recent article from the International Solidarity Movement shows how the arrests show no signs of stopping: "Thirty children arrested in Hebron on their way to school".

The film had its world premiere at the 2012 IDFA. Don't miss this excellent article from Aljazeera, with some comments from director/cinematographer Tone Andersen about the inspiration behind and making of the film. Stay tuned to the website for more info on the film and upcoming screenings.

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