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Film Festival: The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

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Divine Intervention

Paradise Now

Cast a Giant Shadow (for a pro-Israel, historical background)

If you can find it, a short, West Bank Story for humor.

The Death of Klinghoffer

Munich

Ford Transit

The Battle of Algiers, though not Israeli-Palestinian, has themes that should be included


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I'd add The Syrian Bride, winner of the ecumenical prize at the Montreal Film Festival in 2004. A sensitive, complex look at the borderlands of the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. This "stateless" zone creates terrible ambivalance for the family of the bride, as well as the bride herself, who is about to marry a Syrian. Highly recommended.

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The films of Amos Gitai also come to mind, such as: Bayit/House and A House in Jerusalem are excellent documentaries in this respect; Kippur and Kedma chronicle early Jewish border wars, the former about 1973 and the latter 1948 (this one is not nearly as good as Kippur); and especially the recent Free Zone.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I second Darrel's suggetion of Divine Intervention; Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman's outrageous, surrealistic comedy isn't a documentary, but it contains many documentary elements and a rich feeling for atmosphere, character, and place. His previous Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996) is less flamboyant but even more effective; an absolutely hilarious dead-pan comedy about the physical and metaphysical tensions in his homeland, shot in a series of formally masterful vignettes, mixing and matching genres at will. He's a world cinema master to keep an eye on.

But on the documentary front, I'd recommend Promises, which I saw years ago and remember several friends enjoying when it was subsequently broadcast on PBS; My Terrorist, a moving essay film by Jewish filmmaker Yulie Gerstel, who was injured by a terrorist attack in 1978 and who tries 22 years later to parole her attacker, who has repudiated violence; Simone Bitton's The Wall (2004) is a recent, even-handed meditation on a highly-expensive, socially destructive wall being built around Israel by cheap Palestianian labor (in effect, building their own prison); 50 Years War: Israel and the Arabs (1999) is a lengthy and highly informative Frontline account of the modern history and violence of the region--it comes on two discs and is available from Netflix; Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel (2002) is a highly revealing, three-part road trip essay film that interviews both Israeli and Palestinian passersby (and generated considerable controversy in France); John Pilger's classic Palestine is Still the Issue (1977) and many more documentaries on the subject can be obtained through Bullfrog Films.

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That Frontline documentary as fantastic, as all their stuff is.

Perhaps also The Milky Way, set in Galilee in the 60's but still rooted in the 1948 conflict, would also fit. Ford Transit, a bluntly pro-Palestine documentary about a typical Palestinian truck driver. And one which I have only read about, but seems to have been well seen elsewhere: Private.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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What I really liked about Private is that its approach is more allegorical than literal (quite unusual especially since the story is based on a real-life episode), where the occupation of the the house becomes a broader allegory for the occupation. Along the surreal, almost absurd humor of Divine Intervention, I'd also recommend Randa Chahal-Sabbag's The Kite about this young woman who is promised to marry someone from the other side of the Israeli buffer zone, where borders are constantly re-shifted overnight as security dictates. It's pretty hilarious too, especially when loved ones across the buffer zone communicate personal family details to each other on megaphones.

Another recent film worth noting is Avi Mograbi's Avenge But One of My Two Eyes. This one is decidedly from a pro-peace point of view, not only on the absurdity of life under occupation as seen through the eyes of a sympathetic Israeli journalist, but more ingeniously, on the cultural nurturing of retaliatory suicide both on the Jewish and Arab sides that have sown the seeds of modern day suicide bombings, so it really rattles a lot of right-wing ideologues along the way. (The title is from Samson's declaration to kill as many Philistines as he could in his own desperate act of vengeful suicide).

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I don't know if any such films exist, but one film I would like to SEE is one that deals with Arab Israelis, i.e. with Arab citizens of Israel who are not "Palestinians" but are full citizens of Israel, members of the Knesset, etc. I'm not sure how many people outside that region are even aware that such people exist, but they do, and they must be in an awfully tricky place, culturally and politically.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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