The mission of the Other Israel Film Festival is to expose the lives of Muslims that live in Israel. I am behind the mission of the festival. I am interested in the Muslim perspective in Israel and I am interested in the art that Muslims are generating. Do they feel like second-class citizens, how do Muslim women view themselves, and what is the Other Israel?
This is the first year of the festival, and I believe that it was an inspiring one. I have been to my share of festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival and the New York Film Festival, and I've thrown my own. There were technical problems with the festival, like the films being re-sized as we watched them, but I understood these problems as a festival's growing pains. The Other Israel Film Festival got a group of films and filmmakers together that got the other side seen and heard, and I commend them for that.
Here are some highlights of the festival. The Syrian Bride
Every bride is nervous on her wedding day. She might trip on her dress or Aunt Ethel might get wasted at the reception. A million things might go wrong, but eventually, her nervousness recedes, she kisses the groom, and the two begin a married life.
Mona is nervous on her wedding day for different reasons. As a Palestinian, once she marries her Syrian fiancé, she can never return to Israel or see her family again—the Israeli government has also prohibited her father from attending her wedding. So Mona must turn her back on her family in order to get married. This is more than most brides have to deal with on their wedding day.
The Syrian Bride exposes the difficulties of not being a citizen of your homeland. My biggest critique of the film is that it could have gone further, and investigated what it means to live with resignation— to know that you are not in control, do not have basic privileges, and are denied happiness because of your lack of identity. The Syrian Bride alludes to these themes, but the lack of resolution leaves loose ends where solid conclusions are necessary. Pickles
According to convention, Muslim widows are dead to the world. They cannot remarry or work outside of the home, or do anything other than raise their children and mourn their husband's death. They must live the rest of their days with their husband's family as well. The family watches over the widow and ensures that she does not disrespect her husband's memory.
These are the makings of a barren, miserable, and lonely life.
However, this is not the case for a group of eight Muslim widows. They start a pickling factory to earn money for their families, and in so doing, they give meaning to their lives. They have a place to go to, a job to do, and soon, a social network forms. However, none of the women is prepared for the difficulties that await them.
This is a moving documentary about the limitations of faith and culture, and the inherent disadvantages of living in a chauvinistic society. Pickles asks: must we accept these limitations? It is an articulate and intimate portrait of Muslim life. Roads
Amores Perros begins with two young men in a speeding car, escaping a car full of thugs, as a dog bleeds to death in the backseat. Roads begins with two young boys in a speeding car, escaping a car full of thugs, as a sheep bleeds to death in the backseat. Coincidence?
Roads is about a young Arab boy working for a heartless drug-dealer. One day, he decides to take the money and run. Then, he gets his best friend and a Jewish drug-addict involved. Will he escape his life of poverty or get stopped along the way?
Perhaps if Roads were not a rip-off of Amores Perros, I could appreciate it. Then again, the terrible plot-development, sloppy editing, and lazy camera work were no picnic to sit through. As a filmmaker, I've learned that a great idea does not make a great film; good storytelling, strong acting, and careful attention to detail make a great film. It takes vision and a high level of technical skill to pull one off—and you must make your stories your own. Roads lacks the originality that makes a film worth watching.