Chattanooga Jewish Federation screens gruesome documentary on Oct. 7 festival massacre

Staff photo by Andrew Schwartz / Yossi Bloch, the co-director of “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre,” poses after a private screening of the documentary Monday at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga.
Staff photo by Andrew Schwartz / Yossi Bloch, the co-director of “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre,” poses after a private screening of the documentary Monday at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga.

One attendee called the music festival "bliss." Another called it "the purest place."

Then the film cut to just a few hours later. Charred cars. Dead bodies strewn all around.

On Monday evening, the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga put on one of the first U.S. screenings of "Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre," a gruesome new documentary based on interviews with survivors of the Oct. 7 attack, the footage they shot on their phones as well as footage taken by their Hamas attackers, who'd snuck into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The 360-plus dead at the dance festival were the largest cohort among the reported 1,200 killed that day by Hamas, which also took scores of people hostage.

In response, Israel vowed to annihilate Hamas, and its ensuing military campaign in Gaza has been among the most destructive of any in recent history, leaving more than 29,000 Palestinians reported dead and leveling the infrastructure of one of the poorest places on Earth.

Local Jewish groups, led by the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, have been working to make sure the Oct. 7 attacks don't disappear from the public's narrative of the war.

Last week they helped bring the activist and pundit Bassem Eid to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Eid, a Palestinian who says Palestinians, not Israel, are largely to blame for their horrible situation, gave interviews to the local press, spoke on campus and appeared on WUTC's "Scenic Roots."

In a statement on social media, the Chattanooga Palestinian Solidarity Network characterized Eid as a "token" who denied "Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation, apartheid and genocide." The group condemned the university's decision to host him while not bringing on Palestinians with more representative views.

The university on Thursday announced plans to host more speakers with alternate perspectives on the conflict, which it said were already in the works but not finalized when Eid's visit was announced.

(READ MORE: In Chattanooga, strong language, heated emotions and dueling calls for accountability on Middle East)

Attendees at the private Monday evening film screening at the Jewish Federation building included members of the local Jewish community, Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy and representatives from Mayor Tim Kelly's and U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn's offices.

The documentary held a tight narrative frame on the horrific events at the festival, though it featured a couple of oblique references to the charged political context. One survivor interviewed in the film recalled making note prior to the attack of how close the festival was to the Gaza border but feeling reassured there would be a security presence.

The documentary depicts ecstatic all-night revelry interrupted by an early morning rocket attack — a relatively frequent, if grim, feature of Israeli life which gave way to something darkly new as concertgoers were told to disperse, only to encounter indiscriminate fire from Hamas attackers on the road.

The rest of the film depicts festival attendees' desperate efforts to escape and hide. Hamas attackers shot into a line of portable toilets as two terrified young women crouched inside one of them. Survivors recalled packing in tight with others at nearby bus station bomb shelters. Cutting between footage inside and footage outside, the film shows Hamas attackers milling about, shooting at the shelter, before one of them rolls a grenade inside.

Terrified calls for help go out, the film shows, but for hours the Israeli military is absent. Footage shot by one rescuer arriving on the festival scene shows him encountering dead body after dead body as he is seeking a sign of life, not finding one.

(READ MORE: With proposed resolutions, Tennessee lawmakers seek to show support for Israel and its military campaign)

In a moderated discussion with the Chattanooga speaker and Jewish Federation board member Alison Lebovitz, the film's co-director, Yossi Bloch said the documentary — which just made its U.S. debut in Atlanta, and which he next plans to take to Washington and New York — to him centered on a single couple kept alive by love.

Hiding out at one point during the attacks, the young man and woman recalled keeping calm and quiet by staring into one another's eyes. In safety days later, one of them describes struggling to hold her boyfriend's gaze: It took her back to that moment on Oct. 7.

Monday evening, Lebovitz recalled a recent conversation with Dzik, the Chattanooga Jewish Federation head, and she asked Bloch if the film was sufficient.

"Our fear is that even with this documentary, there are people who don't believe it," she said.

Contact Andrew Schwartz at or 423-757-6431.

  photo  Staff photo by Andrew Schwartz / Michael Dzik, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, speaks at a private screening Monday of "Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre."

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