2012 | 82 Minutes minutes | Themes: Documentary, Education, Family
Director: Jill Beardsworth and Keith Walsh
Since the Golan Heights passed from Syria to Israel in 1967’s Six Days War, only a few of the region’s Arab villages remain proudly, stubbornly intact. Documentarians Jill Beardsworth and Keith Walsh look at one of them, a community of Druze apple farmers whose crops, along with prospective brides, are among the only items freely exported from Israel to Syria. Particularly vital in light of current events in Syria, Apples of Golan captures the schism between an older generation, born in Syrian Golan and loyal to Bashar al-Assad, and a younger generation, born in Israeli Golan with “Undefined” citizenship and unsure loyalties.
Arabani isn’t just the auspicious debut feature of a new talent in writer-director Adi Adwan—it’s also the first feature film ever made by an Israeli Druze filmmaker. Newly divorced from his Jewish wife, Yosef (Eyad Sheety) returns to his hometown, the Druze village of Sumaka. While eventually mending bridges with his mother (Zuhaira Sabbagh), the community as a whole gives a cold-shoulder response to Yosef and his mixed-race teenaged children, daughter Smadar (Daniella Nidam) and adolescent son Eli (Tom Kelrich), who face ostracism, misunderstanding, and intimidation. Deploying an understated, nuanced style, Adwan slowly, confidently unspools his story, detailing the slow erosion of social and emotional barriers and budding of young romance. Adwan’s intimate knowledge of his people’s way of life is evident in every precise domestic detail which, in an accumulation of small moments, builds to make a film of surprising emotional impact
Batman at the Checkpoint
Director: Rafael Balulu
An Israeli car and a Palestinian car are stuck in traffic in front of a barricade at the entrance of Jerusalem, coming from the Dead Sea. Yuval and Mahmoud, both seven years old boys, find its much more fun to pass the time playing with one another. But when Mahmoud’s father tries to cut into the other’s lane, Yuval’s father bumps into his car in an attempt to prevent him, and things start to get complicated. What began as a game becomes an outright battle over a plastic Batman doll.
Boy and Soldier
Director: Eran Riklis
Dancing in Jaffa
2013 | 88 Minutes minutes | Themes: Documentary, Education, Family
Director: Hilla Medalia
How do you foster understanding between Jewish and Palestinian Israeli youths raised in distrust of one another? Renowned dancer Pierre Dulaine, born in Jaffa to an Irish father and Palestinian mother, proposed his own unique solution: Ballroom dance! Hilla Medalia’s documentary looks in on five grade schools in Dulaine’s hometown which have agreed to host his “Dancing Classrooms” program. Focusing on Dulaine, three of his program’s participants, and a teacher at one of Jaffa’s rare “mixed” schools, Medalia documents the ten week build-up to a final competition that demands teamwork between the 11- and 12-year-old dancers of integrated Jewish-Palestinian backgrounds. Variety called this festival favorite “uplifting” for its illustration of how a craft can build self-esteem and how cooperation can blow down walls of prejudice, while The Jerusalem Post dubbed it “Mad, Hot Ballroom with a Middle Eastern twist.”
Hadeel, a lively 27-year old Arab teacher from Israel’s Wadi Ara region teaches spoken Arabic to a sixth-grade class at a Jewish elementary school as part of “a cross-cultural outreach program.” . The camera follows Hadeel over a year, during which she faces casual prejudice at work and mounting pressure to marry at home. While Hadeel remains convinced she can make a difference and moments of curiosity and dialogue with her students and co-workers offer reason for optimism, in candid conversations with the camera and her sister, Hadeel confesses fears and doubts. A humane and even-handed film about communication at any cost.
2012 | 55 Minutes minutes | Themes: Documentary
Director: Ada Ushpiz and Shosh Shlam
For those living in the Israeli settlements around the southern West Bank, the Hebron Hills garbage dump is just a place where trash goes and is forgotten. For the hundreds of resourceful Palestinians in the nearby city of Yatta, however, that trash is a treasure, a way to feed their families, a way of life. Directors Shlam and Ushpiz fix their camera on these scavengers who live off of prosperity’s cast-offs, men and boys who brave deplorable conditions and Israeli soldiers to rummage through the trash for material that has a second life—scrap metal, old clothes—and which might bring their families incrementally closer to a better life. A portrait of shared striving which narrows to unforgettable individual stories, using an oblique approach to highlight the vast disparities of wealth in modern Israel. “A truly blood-chilling… excellent film.” —Haaretz
2013 | 50 Minutes minutes | Themes: Documentary
Director: Levi Zini
Telling the stories of two teenage soccer players, Yisrael Agos and Mahdi Zouabi, Green Dreams shows the profound personal and financial sacrifices that are required to have even a shot at an athletic career. Yisrael dreams of playing midfield for Champions League powerhouse AC Milan, while Mahdi aspires to be a goalie for the Israeli national team. Yisrael, who lives in a boarding school, is of Ethiopian descent, but has practically been adopted by an Israeli man who always wanted a soccer player for a son, and who now neglects his own sons for Yisrael. Mahdi lives with his own father, who has a single-minded obsession with making his son into a pro and whose idea of encouragement is yelling things like “I don’t like to be humiliated” from the sidelines. With its full-exposure look into relationships beyond the locker room, Levi Zini and Gil Edni’s film is nothing less than an Israeli Hoop Dreams.
2012 | 88 Minutes minutes | Themes: Narrative
Director: Hiam Abbass
Long-hidden secrets are revealed as a Palestinian family gathers for a wedding in Gallilee, in the north of Israel. Daughter Hajar (Hafsia Herzi), youngest sibling of five, has come home from studying abroad with an Anglo-Saxon, Christian boyfriend (Tom Payne). If that wasn’t enough, when patriarch Abu Majd (Makram Khoury) drops into a coma, there’s a clamor to sort out his legacy and open hostilities begin; while the war between Israel and Lebanon is in the backdrop of this one family’s battlefield. The directorial debut of popular Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass (Munich, The Syrian Bride), Inheritance announces the emergence of a major new directorial talent.
It's Better to Jump
2013 | 75 Minutes minutes | Themes: Documentary
Director: Gina Angelone, Mouna Stewart, and Patrick Alexander Stewart
The Northern port city of Acco (Acre) is a mixed (Jewish-Arab) city. The city’s Palestinian population—both Muslim and Christian, and for the large part “Palestinians of 1948,” who were the residents of Israel when it was granted statehood—has been there for generations. As Akko has become an increasingly-popular tourist destination, however, there has been a concerted push to change the long-standing demographics, resulting in a government-backed push to move Palestinians out of the Old City. In the hands of the filmmakers, a traditional rite of passage in Akko, the act of jumping from the ancient 40-foot seawall, becomes a metaphor for the perilous situation and great bravery of the city’s Palestinian population. A tough, deeply empathetic film that may suggest uneasy parallels between subtler gentrification, as we know it, and actual forced relocation. In theaters Nov. 22.
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