Hot Docs 2017: Death in the Terminal Review

World Showcase

On October 18, 2015, a terrorist shot and killed a soldier who was guarding the bus station in Beersheba, Israel. Death in the Terminal mixes security camera footage with eyewitness interviews to highlight how pervasive the stories we tell ourselves can be. This is a remarkable documentary, as the truth of the events we witness is within our grasp, yet also just out of reach. It’s also a documentary that will traumatize the unwary, so take heed but also learn the lessons it has to teach.

Watching the security footage of an impending assault is certainly an experience one will not forget easily. Witness the people carrying on with their day: folks using ATMs and ticket machines, others with luggage, and a few soldiers meeting for a quick coffee before reporting to base. It’s 7:30 in the morning, and just another day. Then shots ring out, people flee, security guards and soldiers take up their guns, blood spills.

This day will make heroes and villains out of ordinary people–and I’m not talking about the terrorist. It’s interesting to know that you don’t even see him in the footage given here. We’re focused on the eyewitnesses and their actions. Some rush to help: such as a nurse who provides CPR to downed victims (there would be at least 13 casualties [injured or dead] on this day). Others make stray observations that may seem misguided but actually are worth pondering. Some individuals make actions they will later regret, and some find themselves in a court trial still ongoing today.


I would like to commend this film on its final moments, where time is reversed and we can see how things truly unfolded. It’s also a moment of deep sadness as getting back on one’s feet is something those killed in this event cannot do. Feeling powerless and afraid in the face of evil and misguided actions is something we have to learn to relate to so that we can make the world a better and safer place for everyone.