Another Israeli film festival: looking at the other through cinema

NEW YORK – It’s called the Other Israel Film Festival for a reason. The annual event at the Marlene Meyerson Jewish Community Center in Manhattan features films that explore Israel’s minority populations, examining the relationships between history, culture and identity.
The poster for this year’s opening night is Let It Be Morning (Vayehi Boker in Hebrew), which won the 2021 Ophir Prize, the Israeli version of the Academy Awards, for best picture and a host of other categories. The Other Israel Film Festival will serve as the American debut of Let It Be Morning.

The film, adapted from a 2006 novel by Palestinian author Sayed Kashua, follows Sami, a middle-class Arab businessman based in Jerusalem, who has returned to his remote hometown in Israel for his younger brother’s wedding. Unimpressed with his previous life and his family who remained in the village, Sami is eager to return home, until the Israeli army suddenly closes the village to search for Palestinians from the West Bank there illegally in order to build the second home of Sami’s family. .

While the festival, which runs from November 4-11 this year, largely caters to an American Jewish audience, the nerve center of Let It Be Morning is not the oxygen-guzzling Israeli-Palestinian conflict. in the conversations among American Jews about Israel. . Instead, it explores a much less theme in the consciousness of American Jews in general when it comes to Israel. It is the question of identity within Israel’s sizeable Arab population. Are they Israelis? Are they Palestinian? Are they in the middle?

Even the film itself, held in Israel, was boycotted by its Palestinian cast at the Cannes Film Festival because it was entered in the competition only as an Israeli film, as required by its acceptance of funding from the Israel Film Fund, and not like a movie. joint Israeli-Palestinian production.

Let it be tomorrow. (credit: courtesy)

“I never thought that movies had identities. I think people have identities. And as far as I’m concerned, anyone can define their own identity how they feel. Like a fairy tale, the film raises a bigger question about how people tend to define themselves by shutting down other people. And I hope you don’t have to close other people to define your own identity, “Eran Kolirin, director of Let It Be Morning, told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the US premiere.

“I made this movie with a really brilliant cast of the brightest and most beautiful people I’ve ever worked with. Some of them are Palestinian, some of them are Jewish, some of them are Muslim. The movie is the culmination of all that. It is the sum total of who we are and our hearts that we put into the movie. The other question is in the eye of the beholder. This concept of movies having an identity is quite strange, you know, because only people can have one, “said Kolirin.

THE DIRECTOR said he is eager to see how the American Jewish audience will react to the concepts explored in his film.

The Other Israel Film Festival, by definition, has long featured minority perspectives as alternatives to more traditional Israel-centric Jewish films. Kolirin, however, says that this is a concept that no longer applies.

“The Israeli Jewish point of view in the movies doesn’t really exist. It is a concept that is now completely imaginary, because this society is made up of Palestinians, ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox nationalists, Ashkenazi bourgeois middle class and lower Mizrahi class. The Story of This Unique Identity: First of all, I’m really glad it’s over because when you have to define this dominant identity, you usually do it to the exclusion of other people. Society is not a face and the questions are more complex. It is natural in the same way that the perspective of American cinema has changed. Perhaps in the 1950s, what an American movie was was very obvious. Today not so much. Thank goodness things have evolved, ”said Korilin.

So have festival sponsors, according to Isaac Zablocki, director of film programs at JCC Manhattan.

“These kinds of movies were the impetus to start this program 15 years ago. And over the past 15 years, thousands of people at our festival have acquired a more nuanced understanding of the Arabs in Israel. We are no longer teaching them Course 101, ”Zablocki told The Jerusalem Post.

“For most of the festival’s history, we featured films that delved into Israel’s Bedouins, Druze and Arabs who want to be Israeli citizens. Yet for years, at least the last five years, we have been incorporating films involving Palestinians in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). This movie is a perfect example of why. Israeli Arabs cannot completely disconnect from the West Bank. Not showing the West Bank at our festival would demonstrate a lack of understanding of Palestinian identity, ”Zablocki said.

Most of the film screenings and panel discussions from The Other Israel Film Festival will be available both in person and virtually. Let It Be Morning will only be shown at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. The film 200 Meters, shot in the Samarian Arab city of Tulkarm, will be the closing feature film. It was Jordan’s entry for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Academy Awards.

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