"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.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tensions and Friendships between Arabs and Jews on the Big Screen at the Jerusalem Cinematheque's upcoming Jewish Film Festival

The Jewish Film Festival which opens this Saturday evening (Dec. 17) at the Jerusalem Cinematheque is featuring five different films about relations between Jews and Arabs both here in Israel and internationally.  These are not political films per se, although they do touch on some political elements, but rather, they are films about personal relationships between human beings.

I previewed all 5 films and have chosen to highlight the following 3 films – one drama and two documentaries. Try to catch these films at the upcoming Festival!

In the slums of Berlin
Kaddish for a Friend (Germany, 2010, directed by Leo Khasin) is a drama about a Berlin slum neighborhood where ironically Arab youth brush up against aging Russian Jews.  Ali's family has fled from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.  Living near his cousin in Berlin, he gets involved with a tough bunch of Arab kids, and together they trash the apartment of the Jewish man who lives upstairs from Ali.  To avoid deportation, Ali is forced to help clean up the old man's apartment.  A quirky and compelling story about hatred and the power of reconciliation.

Forbidden Love
Love During Wartime (Sweden, 2010, directed by Gabriella Bier) is a full-length documentary which follows the developing story of a couple who fall in love across the divide.  Osama or "Assi" is from a village in the West Bank and Jasmin is a Jewish Israeli.  She is a dancer and he is an artist – a sculptor. They can't live in Israel and the authorities hassle them in Palestine, so they must try their luck abroad.  But it isn't so easy to get work visas. The personal toll is great but they persevere, searching to find a place where they can spend their lives together.

Bringing Together Arab and Jewish Youth in the Galilee

In a completely different style, Circus Kids (USA, 2010, directed by Alexandra Lipsitz) is a full-length documentary about the potential of circus performance to bring together a diverse group of teenagers. Although the film is a public relations film for the amazing St. Louis Arches group (a black and white, Christian and Jewish, urban and suburban troupe), it is also a heart-warming look at their trip to Israel in 2007, to meet and perform with the Galilee Circus troupe (a mixed Jewish-Arab troupe). 


Why circus?  Circus art is a performance art, not a competitive sport. One of the St. Louis kids explains that "the circus keeps me focused and keeps me out of trouble."  Rabbi Marc Rosenstein, of the Galilee Foundation for Value Education , who hosted the group in the Galilee, explains: "Because it is multi-cultural, without words, based on trust and overcoming fear and on making people laugh."


The film includes the tensions that build, the heartwarming friendships that are formed, and multiple circus acts that are performed!  The two troupes perform together at the Jerusalem International YMCA, where I hosted them when I was the director of coexistence programs.  It was a memorable performance – because the acts were stupendous and also because of the message!


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