I had a chance to see an excellent documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict called Encounter Point over the weekend. It’s an 85-minute feature documentary film that follows a former Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved brother who risk their lives and public standing to promote a nonviolent end to the conflict. As the description of the film notes, “Their journeys lead them to the unlikeliest places to confront hatred within their communities. The film explores what drives them and thousands of other like-minded civilians to overcome anger and grief to work for grassroots solutions. It is a film about the everyday leaders in our midst.” Certainly true, the scenes of Ali (who lost his brother and was imprisoned by the Israeli’s for many years) talking to people in Hamas stronghold Hebron, who think his non-violent approach is in effect “normalizing” relations with Israel as well as the former settler from the Gaza Strip who joins Israeli women monitoring checkpoints, were both fascinating examples of how ordinary people can interrupt what has become habitual responses to the conflict serving to rethink what’s possible. From the production notes:
For 2 years, the Just Vision crew followed the stories of ordinary people who feel driven to work for an end to bloodshed and occupation in favor of peace. We traveled from Tel Mond to Tulkarem, from Hebron to Haifa documenting the courageous, painful and moving stories of regular people who refuse to sit back as the conflict escalates. These civic leaders navigate suicide bombings and checkpoints to confront militancy on both sides, the wounded and apathetic masses.
All of this was done in a very coherent, straightforward, non-romanticizing type of way. From the director’s statement:
Encounter Point tells the story of several Palestinians and Israelis who have sacrificed something deeply precious to them as a result of the conflict. These characters have lost liberty, community, public standing, safety and homes. Some even lost children. Yet all have confronted their anger and grief in order to press for a dignified end to the conflict. As Ali Abu Awwad, one of the main protagonists of the film states, “Sometimes people ask me, ‘how can you do this after all you’ve been through?’ But I tell them, ‘I don’t have to love Israelis to make peace with them, and I’m not asked to forgive the soldier who killed my brother, I will never forgive him.’”
Our subjects’ stories are by no means romantic; they face widespread opposition, and at times trip on their own feet. Yet they persevere. We follow them from Telmond to Tulkarem; from a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv to the funeral of a 12-year-old Palestinian girl in Bethlehem, to the first conversation between a former Israeli settler and a former Palestinian prisoner. The film’s subjects are at the vanguard of a movement to push Palestinian and Israeli societies to reach a tipping point, forging a new consensus for nonviolence and peace. Perhaps years from now, their actions will be recognized as a catalyst for constructive change in the region.
In addition, the hilarious Oscar winning short, West Bank Story, was screened after Encounter Point. Here’s the description:
West Bank Story is a musical comedy about David, an Israeli soldier, and Fatima, a Palestinian fast food cashier – an unlikely couple who fall in love amidst the animosity of their families’ dueling falafel stands in the West Bank. Tensions mount when the Kosher King’s new pastry machine juts onto Hummus Hut property. The Palestinians ruin the machine and the Israelis respond by building a wall between the two eating establishments. The couple professes their love for each other, triggering a chain of events that destroys both restaurants and forces all to find common ground in an effort to rebuild, planting a seed of hope.