"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Monday, February 15, 2010

The Bedouin of the Negev

Never think for a moment that all Israeli Arabs are the same. They do not necessarily think alike and they certainly don't all have the same politics. In the feature film Ajami, we learn that there are tensions between Christians and Muslims, and between Bedouin from the northern Negev and Muslims in Jaffa. In this film, The Film Class (directed by Uri Rosenwaks), we learn that not all Bedouin are the same – the black Bedouin are discriminated against and live separately from the Arab Bedouin.
This fascinating film is about the terrible discrimination against blacks by the Bedouin of the Negev, which is unveiled in the framework of a modest class in filmmaking.
Documentary filmmaker Uri Rosenwaks is hired by the NGO, Step Forward, to teach film to a group of black Muslim women in Rahat. He teaches these women how to hold the camera (the woman in the picture is holding a sound boom), how to interview, and eventually, how to deal with sensitive issues. He learns that the black community lives separately, as a distinct minority and he tries to get the women to talk about it in the course. He also tries to get them to talk about their roots about which they know almost nothing. As a result of his prodding, the women interview one of the elders of their community and discover that their ancestors were bought as slaves by Arab Bedouin, that their roots are in Ethiopia and Sudan and that their ancestors were branded like cattle.
Some members of the film class travel to England with Rosenwaks to interview a young black Bedouin, Rashed, from the Negev, who had to flee for his life because he fell in love with and married a white Bedouin girl. His last name, Abd, means "slave" and he wants to change it because it is humiliating. Then they travel together to Zanzibar to learn about their roots and about the Arab slave trade.
Slavery was certainly a despicable way for some men to hold power over others and the modern-day remains of this can be seen in the humiliation and abject poverty of the black Muslims of the Negev.
The Film Class (53 minutes, 2006) won an Israeli Documentary award in 2007 and a special commendation at the Film Festival in Zanzibar and is available from Ruth Diskin .

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