Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

"Other Israel Film Festival" Tackles Complex Issues

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     (# of views)   2 comments
Author 81000
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Marcia G. Yerman
Become a Fan
  (4 fans)
- Advertisement -

"Cinema. Dialogue. Understanding."

These words were on the screen at the Other Israel Film Festival, at the JCC in Manhattan, as the auditorium filled up on opening night. Sharqiya, by first time Israeli filmmaker Ami Livne, was receiving its New York premiere. It had garnered top honors at the Jerusalem Film Festival for best full-length feature film, and was also screened at the Berlin International Film Festival. 

Currently in its sixth year, the Other Israel Film Festival has been combining documentary and narrative films with panels, programs, theater, and art. The objective is to create a thought provoking conversation about the challenges faced by minority groups in Israel, as well as Arab citizens.

The brainchild of Carole Zabar, the event was conceived to reach and inform people through the visceral medium of film. In her opening remarks, Zabar discussed the reality of Palestinian Israelis who feel like "the other," despite having lived on the land for centuries. Her stated hope was that attendees would come away with a deeper perspective of the multi-faceted situation in Israel. She verbalized about "taking more risks" in the process.

- Advertisement -

Later, I questioned Zabar about if most of those present were already predisposed to agree that Israel was facing major challenges in how they are handling relationships among Jews and non-Jews within the country. "Not 100 percent," she replied. "We reach across the Jewish spectrum, and we want to reach those who don't see this stuff."

Issac Zablocki, executive director of the eight-day event, told the audience, "We are a unique festival. We are creating a movement."

A special guest for the night was Mandy Patinkin. He spoke passionately, and at times with palpable anger, about the current inequities in Israel. Having traveled to the country for the shooting schedule of Homeland "s second season, Patinkin immersed himself in information gathering during the days before his work began. He visited the West Bank. He returned to Hebron--where he had been thirty years earlier--and spoke with sadness and frustration of the devastation that had taken place. In Ramallah, he conversed with a 23-year-old Stanford graduate who told him, "We want freedom, justice, and dignity for all humanity. Is there anything unreasonable about that?"

- Advertisement -

Patinkin's concern and outrage ratcheted up as he related a description of what had impacted him. "You need to see where only Jews are allowed to walk, and Jews can only ride on certain streets and highways, and Palestinians are forbidden--and they live right there." His message was about "bringing voices to those who are too often voiceless." He stated, "It is our job to keep listening."

And for those who opened themselves up to the message of Sharqiya, a devastating portrait about conditions for Bedouins in Israel, the insights were painful. The narrative follows a main character, Kamal, who subsists with his brother and sister-in-law on land that has been in their family for generations. It is an eye-opener. The parcel of land upon which they have constructed corrugated metal and wooden shacks is at the periphery of the Negev Desert's. The conditions are spartan. They get their electricity from a gas generator, and transport water from a well in a tractor (which later gets stolen).

The subtexts that underscore conflicts within Kamel's family reflect tensions in their larger society. Kamel's time of service in the Israeli army is a source of conflict with his brother, as is his support of his sister-in-law's desire to become educated. Kamel is shown as having innate abilities, particularly his gift for fixing broken electronics. You can't help wondering how far his talents might have taken him if he had been afforded greater opportunities. Rather, he works as a security guard on a side gate of a bustling bus station. The main gate assignment is reserved for Jewish personnel.

The core matter of the film relates to ongoing state-sanctioned demolitions of "unrecognized" Bedouin villages. The scenes illustrating the interaction between the Israeli bureaucracy and Bedouins trying to get reprieves for impending destruction have a Kafkaesque tinge. Yet nothing prepares the viewer for the utter harshness of watching an Israeli team of impersonal armed soldiers and bulldozers, demolishing the makeshift housing of Kamel's family. As they try to gather and salvage their meager belongings under the watchful gaze of those who are "carrying out orders," there are unspoken analogies that are clearly present.

As Patinkin had said earlier when reflecting on circumstance that he had witnessed, "It kills you. And you know it's not sustainable."

In the coda to the demolition scene, Bedouin neighbors come with supplies to help rebuild. Kamel leaves to go to work at the Israeli bus station; the family needs the money.

- Advertisement -

The last shot of Sharqiya positions Kamel looking directly into the camera, as if to ask, "What do you think?"

View the Sharqiya here

This article originally appeared on the website cultureID


- Advertisement -

Must Read 1   Touching 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Marcia G. Yerman Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Marcia G. Yerman is a writer, activist, and artist based in New York City. Her articles--profiles, interviews, reporting and essays--focus on women's issues, the environment, human rights, the arts and culture. Her writing has been published by (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The Keystone Pipeline Is An Environmental Justice Issue

"ExxonMobil Hates Your Children" and This Ad

2015 Climate-Change Forecast

"A Woman of Interest": Murder in Arizona

"Trumping Democracy" -- New Documentary Traces Trump's Election Win

Republican Jim Brainard Believes in the Science of Climate Change