The eponymous scene of On the Side of the Road, a documentary that explores Israeli attitudes toward the Palestinian nakba, or catastrophe, occurs midway through the film on an unpaved road just outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Interrupted by a curious Israeli family out for a pastoral drive, director Lia Tarachansky stops to answer their questions about what she is filming (“what TV channel will it be on?”). As they drive on, the children waving and smiling their good byes, Tarachansky stands alone on the side of the road and suddenly bursts into tears. “I mean, everyone I love is here,” she weeps, as she faces the sprawling settlement. “You know?”
The film’s opening scenes occur in Tel Aviv, on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day. People are dancing to live music in Rabin Square and spraying one another with foam while fireworks light up the sky. Meanwhile, at the Zochrot office just off the square, a group of volunteers are preparing to go out with posters to raise awareness of the Nakba Law, passed by the Knesset in 2011. The law grants the government the authority to impose severe financial penalties on any publicly-funded organization that marks Independence Day as a day of mourning.