Framing their dilemmas

Framing their dilemmas

Palestinian-Israeli lives and history caught in movie form

By Jesse Singal
April 20, 2010

The Boston Palestine Film Festival, running through Oct. 10, comes at a vital time not just for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but for the state of the conversation in the United States. As groups like J Street have broadened the discourse, it’s become a critical and opportune time for more Palestinian voices to join the conversation. That’s a big reason for the festival’s existence, of course. In its fourth year, it offers more than 40 feature films, documentaries, and shorts. (Unless otherwise noted, screenings are at the Museum of Fine Arts.)

One must-see highlight is “Budrus” (playing Oct. 8), an astonishing documentary that takes well-aimed shots at just about every myth surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When it becomes clear that the planned construction route of Israel’s wending security fence will separate the Palestinian village of Budrus from its 3,000 olive trees, it’s an existential threat, as the village has been harvesting the olives for generations. Israel dispatches bulldozers to clear the groves, but the community quickly mobilizes demonstrations and human blockades. Led by Ayed Morrar, a long-time Palestinian political activist who has been arrested by Israel five times – and who comes across in the film as a truly remarkable figure – what had been a sleepy village becomes a key flashpoint in the battle over the security barrier. The villagers are soon joined by international human rights activists and, most inspirationally, sympathetic Israelis. The scenes of Americans and Europeans marching nonviolently alongside Israelis, Budrus’s villagers, and members of Hamas are powerful.

There are plenty of interviews with all the involved parties, but it’s raw, intense footage that sets “Budrus” apart. This film will single-handedly change how many people view the conflict. It’s that good, and that important.

Other films especially notable:

‘ “Je Veux Voir” (“I Want to See”), at the Harvard Film Archive (Oct. 3), takes viewers to Lebanon. A fictional documentary, it follows a French actress who wants to see the devastation that resulted from Israel’s 2006 war with its neighbor. She is chauffeured by a local actor. The two simply talk and look at the scenery – by turns gorgeous and horrifying as they pass between pristine countryside and pockmarked villages and cities. It’s a meditative look at what’s left in a battered country after the warplanes have moved on.

‘ “Jaffa, the Orange’s Clockwork” (Oct. 3) steps back from bloodshed, checkpoints, and political movement to view the conflict through a not-so-obvious metaphor: the Jaffa orange. Long one of the most sought-after fruits in the world, the orange has served as an important symbol for those trying to seize control of the region’s narrative. The film shows how the oranges have stood at the center of many vital myths about “the Orient,” Zionism, and the relationship between Arabs and Jews.

‘ “Jerusalem: The East Side Story” (Oct. 9) is a bracing examination of Israel’s ethnic policies in Jerusalem. In frank (sometimes overblown) language, the film makes a case for Israel’s attempt to control its demographic fate in the city through land grabs, harassment of Palestinians, and double-standard laws regarding identification and freedom of movement.

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