The Other Israel Film Festival provides a platform to engage and face some of the challenges within Israeli society through film and dialogue and seeks to foster social awareness and cultural understanding. The festival was founded by JCC Manhattan’s board member and New York City staple, Carole Zabar.
The previously announced In Between by Maysaloun Hamoud will open the festival and Shady Srour’s Holy Air will be the closing night film.
Other highlights of this year’s festival include Waiting For Giraffes (dir. Marco De Stefanis), which documents the only Palestinian Zoo in the small town of Qualquilia on the border of the West Bank, Death In The Terminal (dir.Tali Smemesh & Asaf Sudry), an innovative documentary utilizing security camera footage and riveting interviews, about a shooting in a bus terminal where a soldier was killed and an asylum seeker was mistaken for a terrorist, and The Field (dir. Mordechai Vardi), that follows a Palestinian activist who created “Roots”, a program with Israeli Jewish settlers advocating responsibility and grassroots efforts for political reconciliation.
“This year, we focused our mission statement to present the festival as a platform for taking a deeper look and engaging with challenging perspectives surrounding Israel and its neighbors,” says Isaac Zablocki, Director of the festival. “These films are the foundation for crucial conversations and inspire the community to grapple with universal themes of diversity and inclusion.”
Annual Other Israel Film Festival runs from November 2-9, 2017
at JCC Manhattan on 76th St and Amsterdam Ave, as well as at JCC Harlem and other locations throughout the city. Tickets are on sale starting September 27th. For additional information, please visit: www.OtherIsrael.org
The full list of 2017 festival titles includes:
IN BETWEEN (Opening Night Film)
Dir. Maysaloun Hamoud
2016 – 102 min. – Narrative
Two Palestinian women share an apartment in the vibrant heart of Tel Aviv. A stylish criminal lawyer with a wicked wit, Laila sheds her professional persona and releases any inhibitions in the city’s underground club scene. Her more subdued lesbian roommate Salma left her conservative Christian home and floats from job-to-job, working primarily as a bartender and DJ. They are joined by Nur, a religious Muslim, who moves into the apartment while studying at the local university. Her fiancé refuses to understand why she prefers to study and work over establishing their house. Together, the roommates search for ways to live in the space in between their desired modern lifestyles and the pressures from their traditional communities. In Theaters Nov. 10
BORN IN DEIR YASSIN
Dir. Neta Shoshani
2016 – 63 min. – Documentary
Sitting on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Deir Yassin became the site of one of the most pivotal clashes in the 1948 War of Independence. It also remains one of the most controversial, considered by many a blemish on Israel’s storied history. Three years after Jewish fighters conquered this Palestinian Arab village, killing over 100 and forcing out the remainder of the local population, the nascent Israeli government established on the site the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center, which remains there to this day. Taken at birth from his mother-who was hospitalized at the facility for the final years of her life-Dror Nissan returns to this hospital as he attempts to learn more about his own past. By both tracing Nissan’s personal journey as well as documenting the contradicting memories of several Israelis who fought that day, Shoshani unveils secrets of the nation’s founding fathers who set in motion the Palestinian refugee crisis that persists 70 years later.
DEATH IN THE TERMINAL
Dir. Tali Smemesh & Asaf Sudry
2016 – 52 min. – Documentary
On October 18, 2015, in the southern Israeli town of Be’er Sheva, a man carrying a knife and a gun walked into a bus terminal and opened fire. Eighteen minutes later, the perpetrator and two other people were dead: An Israeli soldier named Omri Levy and Abtum Zarhum, an Eritrean refugee seeking asylum in Israel because his own country had become too dangerous. And yet, it was in Israel, amid the chaos of a terrorist attack, when mob rule took control of the crowd, mistook Zarhum for a terrorist, and lynched him. Painstakingly editing together security camera and mobile phone video along with eyewitness accounts, the filmmakers provide a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the incident. The diverse perspectives both complement and contradict each other, questioning the reliability of each witness and revealing the power of emotion over reason.
Dir. Nili Dotan
2016 – 59 min. – Documentary
Throughout the world, large groups of people continue to face oppression and discrimination due to religion and ethnicity. Each year, thousands migrate to other countries, uncertain of what may lie ahead, but desperately searching for better lives. With an international refugee crisis afflicting the entire globe, director Dotan follows the specific journeys of a group of Christian women from Sudan and Eritrea, all of them fleeing war, dictatorship, and religious persecution at the hands of Muslims who control their countries. Over a five-year period, they seek asylum in Israel, attempting to build new lives while still remaining under the constant threat of deportation. They have no homes to which they can return, and their uncertain status has no end in sight. These specific stories stand-in for a more universal tale of not only refugees in Israel, but also the volatile political conversations throughout the entire world, including here at home.
Dir. Mordechai Vardi
2017 – 70 min. – Documentary
Gush Etzion Junction, a commercial intersection frequented by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers, lies midway between Jerusalem and Hebron and is the entrance to one of the largest settlement blocks in the West Bank. In 2014, Ali Abu Awwad built a shack on a plot of land owned by his family near the junction to create a Palestinian Center for Nonviolence. He invited some settlers to visit, sit, and talk. They would eat and pray together discuss both the serious and mundane elements of their lives, and begin a process of understanding that could lead to a positive plan for coexistence as friendly neighbors. Awwad had been a fighter and militant activist, enraged by his brother’s death by an Israeli soldier and having served time in an Israeli prison. But now, collaborating with the settlers, he and his family created “Roots,” a grassroots effort to advance responsibility and political reconciliation through peaceful conversation and cooperation. Director Vardi, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and resident of Gush Etzion, provides a glimpse of the dialogue between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, and follows the group throughout a wave of violence in 2015 that challenges all of their hopes for reconciliation.
A LAND WITHOUT BORDERS
Dir. Michael Alalu + Nir Baram
2017 – 62 min. – Documentary
Award-winning writer Nir Baram grew-up in a political household. Both his father and grandfather were members of the Knesset and Ministers in the Israeli Labor Party governments. As Baram begins to lose faith in even the possibility of a two-state solution, he decides to travel throughout the West Bank to speak with the local populations on both sides of the conflict. He learns that in crucial substantive ways, the two groups don’t start from a common foundation, so how can they even participate in the same conversation. While the international focus of a two-state solution generally revolves around the “Green Line,” the average West Bank Palestinian on the street cares little about 1967 political borders when they desire the land they lost in 1948. These surprising revelations force Baram to challenge his entire political belief system and reevaluate his own hopes for a peaceful resolution to this conflict.
MUHI – GENERALLY TEMPORARY
Dir. Rina Castelnouvo-Hollander + Tamir Elterman
2017 – 89 min. – Documentary
As an infant, Palestinian Muhi was rushed from his home in Gaza to an Israeli hospital. Travel restrictions allowed only Muhi’s grandfather to accompany him to Israel, and seven years later, Muhi has grown into a brave and spirited boy. Unable to receive the care he still needs in Gaza, he and his grandfather remain in the hospital, spending their days roaming the wards, separated from their family and most of the outside world. With the help of an Israeli who lost his own son due to war, the grandfather steadily fights to create a future for Muhi outside of the hospital, whether in Israel or Gaza. Caught between two worlds, Muhi grows-up speaking Arabic and Hebrew, studying the Torah and Koran, and cared for by the very government that keeps him separated from his mother and the rest of his family. This paradoxical circumstance transcends identity, nationality, religion, and the larger conflict that both surrounds him and divides his world.
2017 – 50 min – Documentary
In recent years, social media has become a central part of Palestinian life. The film follows four Palestinians who utilize social media — especially Facebook and YouTube — for both activist and aspirational purposes. Mousa, describing the centrality of the Internet in daily life, repeats a common joke: “If you see a guy who doesn’t have money to buy a coffee, and he has iPhone, Galaxy, and Blackberry, welcome to Palestine.” Ahmad works as a translator, participating in groups that bring together young Israelis and Palestinians for face-to-face dialogue. Manal \
leads a website that documents violence against women within Palestinian society to shine a light on an otherwise ignored local issue. Finally, Issa encourages Palestinians of all ages to use their cellphones to record every interaction with Israeli soldiers as a defense against accusations of violence. To their dismay, peaceful and productive efforts are not the only residents of social media, and the film also illuminates how extremist voices attempt to dominate these platforms.
THE PROMISED BAND
Dir. Jen Heck
2016 – 89 min. – Documentary
American reality TV producer Jen Heck, brings her friends from a self-described bubble in Tel Aviv, ignorant of the realities of life for Palestinians, to meet Lina, a Palestinian living in Nablus. This action could land them all in a great deal of trouble as the Palestinian city is off-limits to Israeli citizens. When Shlomit and Lina hit it off, they decide to form a band which would allow them to continue to meet and interact. None have much musical ability, but she recruits a few more friends, and they begin making regular trips to Lina’s home in Nablus. The more the women spend together, the more they connect with each other and begin to realize they’re not so different.
WAITING FOR GIRAFFES
Dir. Marco De Stefanis
2016 – 84 min. – Documentary
The city of Qalqilya sits on the edge of the West Bank and is home to the only zoo in the Palestinian territories. The Qalqilya Zoo lost its prized giraffe during the second Intifada. The lore surrounding,”What happened to the giraffe?” became its own urban legend. The beating heart of the zoo, and the man who keeps things running is Dr. Sami, a veterinarian who has dedicated himself to turning his zoo into a world class institution that makes all Palestinians proud. The cooperation and support Dr. Sami receives from the leaders of the Jerusalem Zoo stands in stark contrast to the political obstacles standing in his way most notably by the Israeli government and military, but also by the revolving door of leadership in Qalqilya. Determined to succeed, even with that cement border wall constantly in view, Dr. Sami continues to leap over the hurdles in the zoo’s path, determined to provide his people the only zoo they may ever know.
Dir. Roni Ninio
2017 – 32 min. x 3 episodes – Narrative TV
This hit Israeli TV series follows Micah Alkobi, who maintains a reputation as a fair and honorable judge throughout the southern Israeli city of Beer’Sheva, even among the Bedouin population who believe they might get a fair shake in his courtroom. However, just as he’s on the verge of winning an election for a seat on a higher court, a personal crisis tests those renowned qualities and threatens to cost him everything. Micah’s son Shai hits a motorcyclist with his car and flees the scene, Micah demands he turn himself in, until he learns that the critically injured biker is the son of the local Israeli crime boss, currently serving time in prison and no fan of the judge. Desperate to protect his son, and knowing that his identity would likely get him killed, he enlists the help of friends-Bedouin police officer and his wife-to help cover-up the incident. This decision marks just the first of a string of choices Micah makes leading him further into criminal territory and away from the prominent position he has worked so hard to earn.
HOLY AIR (Closing Night Film)
2017 – 81 min. – Narrative
Dir. Shady Srour
In Nazareth, Christian-Arab Adam suffers the failure of yet another entrepreneurial idea. He will soon become a first-time father, and his father has fallen gravely ill. Adam needs to catch a break, and finally one day he happens upon his blockbuster idea. With thousands of tourists coming to the childhood home of Jesus every year, Adam could sell them “Holy Air,” bottled fresh from the top of Mount Precipice. For a single Euro, tourists can buy a bottle filled with the very same air Mary breathed when angel Gabriel announced she would give birth to the “son of God.” Adam suddenly becomes so successful, he catches the attention of the local Jewish politicians, the Catholic Church, and the Muslim mafia, alike. Will success liberate Adam and allow him to support his family, or will more money lead to more problems.
NEW VOICES SESSION 1
Dir. Catie Damon
2017 – 7 min. – Narrative
When the bus she is on picks up a group of stranded Israelis, a Palestinian girl decides to make the bus her stage.
ACROSS THE LINE
Dir. Nadav Shlomo Giladi
2017 – 29 min. – Narrative
Hananel, a young Jewish settler, is hurrying home for Shabbat. An unexpected encounter with Mundir, a stubborn Palestinian hitchhiker, leads Hananel through a series of mix-ups.
Dir. Michael Grudsky
2016 – 22 min. – Narrative
Erez, an Israeli officer, and two other soldiers are ordered to transfer an Arab prisoner to Megiddo prison. Along the way, a conflict arises that makes them all take a look at themselves and question their prejudices.
Dir. Yair Agmom
2017 – 16 min. – Narrative
Two elderly people with dementia, Anshel, a Jewish man, and Haneen, an Arab woman, tells their stories of conflict in separate interviews. Throughout it, we learn that their paths crossed during the 1948 war.
NEW VOICES SESSION 2
ANA MIN EL YAHUD
Dir. Aharon Shem Tov and Niv Hachlili
2017 – 18 min. – Narrative
A young teacher, who is about to be a father, becomes possessed by his dead grandfather as he begins to question his identity. His grandfather confronts him with a decision to choose his Iraqi Arabic Jewish family identity or go on with his life as an Israeli – forgetting the past.
Dir. Omri Burstyn
2015 – 19 min. – Narrative
Ali, a sensitive teenage boy is the sole Palestinian-Israeli in a radical activist youth group. There he meets and falls in love with Yael and plans to reveal his feelings at the upcoming group meeting. But when a series of political outbursts in the West Bank occur, the group is pushed towards more violent action. As he struggles to impress Yael, Ali finds himself in a dangerous position.
Dir. Haim Barbi
2017 – 16 min. – Narrative
When Efi, a young Israeli student living in Jaffa, loses his new bicycle, he takes on an uncompromising journey to get it back. What starts as a hopeful journey for retrieval swiftly turns into a tragic event involving Efi’s fellow Domino Street residents – a young thief, an Arab theater actor, a local homeless man, an older artist, an American bicycle shop owner, and a religious jeweler. Though none are acquainted each other, their lives are entangled and their destinies become intertwined.
Dir. Sabrine Khoury
2017 – 19 min. – Narrative
An Arab salsa dancer is in a relationship with a Jewish dancer and their next show is supposed to take place in an Israeli settlement. She represses this fact until they must face it when they reach the army checkpoint.