_Flipping Out_: The _Heeb_ Review

By Nadine Levyfield

High in the hills of the Himalayas, recently discharged Israeli soldiers swing lazily on hammocks, stoned out of their minds on whatever they can get their hands on. In the thick sand of the beaches of Goa, former soldiers dance at a rave, fueled by Ecstasy.

Flipping Out, which recently screened at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, explores the phenomenon of Israeli soldiers using their discharge bonus to travel to India following their compulsory army service. Each year, it is estimated that 20,000 recently released soldiers use their 15,000 shekel bonus to go on an extended stay in India. Another telling statistic – of these expats, 90 percent use hard drugs during these trips, and around 2,000 experience mental breakdowns. The combination of PTSD related to their army experiences and the heightened drug use results in them – you guessed it – flipping out.

The film begins with former soldiers taking marathon bong hits in a spiritual crack den in Kasol, North India. It’s clear that the mountain villages are profiting from the Israeli influx, as former soldiers stay for long periods of time in hostels during the warm season. In November, the Israelis migrate south to Goa. No matter which location, Israelis spend the majority of their time using their drug of choice, whether it be marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy or heroin.

The Israeli government accepts responsibility for these soldiers spiraling out of control, and recovery centers throughout India are financed by the Israeli Anti-Drug Authority. Danny Winderbaum, a rabbi at Chabad House in India, is often called by concerned friends when someone flips out. His approach is to help the person find religion, while ex-Mossad agent Hilik Magnus is hired by parents to find their drug-addled children and bring them home. He calls his job a "search and rescue business" for Israeli drug casualties.

Flipping Out is directed by Yoav Shamir, whose previous documentaries Checkpoint and 5 Days shadow Israeli soldiers in combat. While this film is a stark picture of the effects of warfare, it also reinforces the reasons why these soldiers fight in the first place. For all the clips of Israelis in a state of drug-induced bliss, there is just as much footage of soldiers voicing their love of Israel. Despite being psychologically damaged beyond belief, they don’t regret what they did in the army.

What do you think?

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6 Responses

  1. animfried

    Nadine’s review made me want to see the movie and find out more about those soldiers. What happens to them after their drug fest? Will they ever become productive members of Israeli society? Great review!

  2. Puck

    Just saw it on SBS last night here in Oz, great doco, seemed a bit disjointed at times but perhaps that was due to too much secondary smoke inhalation ;P


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