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Chaos in the Middle East: Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

Photo of Sydney Levine By Sydney Levine | Sydneys Buzz July 22, 2014 at 4:36PM

Women Make Movies, founded in 1972 as a feminist filmmakers’ collective has developed into an industry-leading nonprofit media arts organization and distributor. For over 40 years, WMM has transformed the landscape of filmmaking for women directors and producers, bringing issues facing women around the world to screens everywhere. Now with more than 550 films in their catalog, including Academy®, Emmy®, Peabody and Sundance nominees and award winners, WMM is the largest distributor of films by and about women in the world FOR EVERYONE.
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Women Make Movies, founded in 1972 as a feminist filmmakers’ collective has developed into an industry-leading nonprofit media arts organization and distributor. For over 40 years, WMM has transformed the landscape of filmmaking for women directors and producers, bringing issues facing women around the world to screens everywhere. Now with more than 550 films in their catalog, including Academy®, Emmy®, Peabody and Sundance nominees and award winners, WMM is the largest distributor of films by and about women in the world FOR EVERYONE.

At this moment in history, as we see the culmination of crises that worldwide society has created (I won’t name names or genders here), it is especially important that women’s voices be raised, heard and listened to by “the other half”.

In light of the recent military escalation and broken cease-fire negotiations in Israel and Palestine, WMM is offering the titles in its Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: New Perspectives Collection because it is important that the perspectives often not covered in the mainstream media are heard. This powerful and poignant collection offers insight into women's lives in the region with honesty and humanity. Enter code ISRPALE14 at checkout to apply your discount on its US$99 package offer.

"For My Children"

"For My Children"
A film by Michal Aviad

Israel, 2002, 65 minutes

In October 2000, as the second Palestinian Intifada erupts, Israeli filmmaker Michal Aviad begins a video exploration about both the moral and mundane dilemmas she faces every day in Tel Aviv. What begins with deceptive simplicity-a tender scene of sending the children off to school-quickly becomes a profound study of vulnerability and anxiety. Small acts like crossing the street are charged with inescapable fear. As the nightmare of violence escalates over the coming months, Michal and her husband Shimshon ask the quintessential Diaspora Jewish question, "When is it time to go?" The question reverberates through a stream of images-public and private, home video and historic archival footage-as her parents and extended family recount their own journeys to Israel from Europe, escaping death and the Holocaust, and from America, out of ideological commitment to Israel. Their stories are told with vivid, beautiful detail-at a bucolic family picnic, during a vacation on the California coast-and with a degree of candor and intimacy rarely seen in Israeli cinema. "I don't want to be an immigrant," says Shimshon, a political activist whose profound feelings about displacement and exile are interwoven with TV images of war, children asleep in their beds, grandma making pasta and the sounds of sirens. Tanks roll over the hills as tea is being made in the kitchen in a cosmic seesaw between blissful domesticity and the nightmare of public life, in this deeply moving and riveting video essay.

Leila Khaled: Hijacker

"Leila Khaled: Hijacker"

A film by Lina Makboul

Sweden/Jordan, 2005, 58 minutes

In 1969 Palestinian Leila Khaled made history by becoming the first woman to hijack an airplane. As a Palestinian child growing up in Sweden, filmmaker Lina Makboul admired Khaled for her bold actions; as an adult, she began asking complex questions about the legacy created by her childhood hero. This fascinating documentary is at once a portrait of Khaled, an exploration of the filmmaker’s own understanding of her Palestinian identity, and a complicated examination of the nebulous dichotomy between "terrorist" and "freedom fighter."

When Makboul tracks Khaled down, she finds Khaled living an ordinary life in Jordan, still firm in her belief that her actions were necessary and fully justified. The film weaves together scenes with Khaled, archival footage, and interviews with the people who were on the planes Khaled hijacked. Makboul searches for a way to reconcile her understanding of the Palestinian national narrative - which now includes Khaled’s actions - with the negative image she encounters from the rest of the world of Palestinians as bloodthirsty terrorists. At the same time, she comes to know Khaled for the very real person that she is as they talk, travel together, and share meals. The result is a multi-dimensional film unlike any other in its skillful handling of the complexities that arise when liberation movements incorporate violence as a tactic.


My Israel – Revisiting the Trilogy

"My Israel – Revisiting the Trilogy"

A film by Yulie Cohen

Israel, 2008, 78 minutes

Few filmmakers have probed issues of Israeli nationalism and Israeli-Palestinian relations more completely or intimately than Tel Aviv-born Yulie Cohen. In My Israel, Cohen revisits her acclaimed trilogy "My Terrorist" (2002), "My Land Zion" (2004), and "My Brother" (2007) with new footage, fresh perspective, and her trademark fearlessness.

For Cohen, Israel is the land of her ancestors, the land her parents fought for during the 1948 war and the land she herself served as an Air Force Officer during the Entebbe crisis. In 1978, working as an El Al stewardess, she survived a terrorist attack in London that killed a colleague and left her with shrapnel in her arm.

Embarking on a difficult and emotional journey, she attempts to free the surviving terrorist who attacked her, to question the myths of the state that she grew up in, and to reconcile with her ultra-orthodox brother after 25 years of estrangement. My Israel is an account of remarkable courage and understanding set against the last turbulent decade of Israeli history, successfully combining Cohen’s 10-year oeuvre in an incisive and refreshing new way.


Rachel

"Rachel"

A film by Simone Bitton

France/Belgium, 2009, 100 minutes

"Rachel" is a startlingly rigorous, fascinating and deeply moving investigatory documentary that examines the death of peace activist and International Solidarity Movement (ISM) member Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003. A few weeks after her little-reported death, an inquiry by Israeli military police concluded that Corrie died in an accident. Simone Bitton (WALL), an award-winning documentary filmmaker who is a citizen of both France and Israel, has crafted a dispassionate but devastating essay investigating the circumstances of Rachel Corrie’s death—including astounding eyewitness testimony from activists, soldiers, Israeli Defense Force army spokespersons and physicians, as well as insights from Corrie’s parents, mentors and diaries.

In assembling a thorough and candid account of the event, using both visual and narrative evidence, Bitton’s quietly persistent questioning manages to accomplish what the inadequate legal proceedings and the overheated press coverage did not: an unflinching examination that refuses to exculpate or equivocate. By aligning her filmmaking methodology with the ISM’s guidelines to state only objective and concrete details without placing judgment, Bitton examines the circumstances surrounding the unresolved case of Corrie's death. The film begins like a classic documentary, but soon develops, transcending its subject and establishing a candid new visual approach for bearing witness. With understated cinematic techniques, Bitton captures the spirit of Rachel's youth, idealism, and political commitment amidst sweeping landscapes of Gaza and a portrait of daily life under ever-present military aggression.


Ramleh

"Ramleh"

A film by Michal Aviad

Israel, 2001, 58 minutes

A timely and powerful look at the ideological, cultural and political conflicts in contemporary Israel, this highly original documentary profiles three seemingly disparate women residing in the town of Ramleh. Located in the heartland of the Israel, this former Palestinian territory serves as a microcosm of the beliefs, biases and conflicts of women living in the country today.

Profiled in this compelling documentary are Sima and Orly, two ultra-orthodox Jewish women who rediscover religion and enthusiastically support the conservative “Shas” party, the third largest political party in Israel; Svetlana, a single-mother and recent immigrant struggling to establish herself in her new country; and Gehad, a young Muslim teacher and law student attempting to find a sense of national identity in a predominately Jewish state. Filmed between the general elections in 1999 and the 2001 elections, Ramleh demonstrates the profound cultural and political divisions barring these women from living together as a united community, as well as reveals how their political landscape helped sow the seeds of the intifada in 2000. It similarly raises the question of whether each woman and the communities they represent will ever peacefully reconcile their search for tradition, religion and homeland.

Egyptian Salad

"Egyptian Salad"

A film by Nadia Kamel

Egypt/Switzerland/France, 2008, 105 minutes

Award-winning Egyptian filmmaker Nadia Kamel’s heritage is a complex blend of religions and cultures. Her mother is a half-Jewish, half-Italian Christian who converted to Islam when she married Nadia’s half-Turkish, half-Ukrainian father. Prompted by the realization that her 10-year-old nephew Nabeel is growing up in an Egyptian society where talk of culture clashes is all too common, she urges her feminist, pacifist, activist mother, Mary Rosenthal, to share their diverse family history.

But, as she and Mary weave their way through the family’s multiethnic fairytales, they bump unexpectedly into the silence around old prejudices concerning the estranged Egyptian-Jewish branch of their family living in Israel since 1948. Bravely inspired to further challenge the boundaries between cultures, religions, and nationalities that are used to divide people, Kamel embarks on an amazing personal journey with her mother and nephew to Israel and Italy, confronting with an open heart, fears and prejudices along the way.

Women in Struggle

"Women in Struggle"

A film by Buthina Canaan Khoury

Palestine, 2004, 56 minutes

"Women in Struggle" presents rare testimony from four female Palestinian ex-detainees who disclose their experiences during their years of imprisonment in Israeli jails and the effect it has had on their present lives and future outlooks. Once content in their lives as sisters, wives and mothers, each of the women became active members for the national fight for Palestinian independence, but their “crimes” differed markedly–one woman was detained in a peaceful protest while another was arrested for her participation in a bombing.

Their painful recollections provide a fascinating personal perspective on their motives for political involvement, reveal their struggles in prison, and define the difficulties they have faced readjusting to life in Palestinian society. Though the women are now free, they continue to feel imprisoned by the current climate of the Intifada, by the “war on terror” and by the recently built “security” wall. With horrifying stories of torture suffered while in Israeli detention, the film brings to the forefront the hot-button issue of human rights abuses in prisons—and its particular implications for women prisoners. It also grapples with timely and difficult questions—what politicizes an individual? Are people born to fight, or do their circumstances force them to do so?

Presented without narration, "Women in Struggle"  does not categorize its subjects as heroes or criminals, instead letting the women’s voices stand on their own to add another layer to the complex discourse on Israel.


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