Middle East Conflict Discussed
at Hamptons Fest
Israeli and Palestinian
filmmakers find common ground through their work, reports TBS Contributing Editor
The eighth Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF), held Oct. 11-15, focused
its launch of the "Films of Conflict and Resolution" program with a timely screening
of films from Palestine and Israel and discussion with the invited filmmakers.
"It was a coincidence
that we chose the Middle East region to start, since documentaries and films from
this region are currently very relevant to American audiences," said Hamptons
Fest Executive Director Denise Kasell, who worked for two years to arrange the
Middle East program, and who travels to Cuba in December to arrange a focus on
Cuban film directors for next year. "The festival is committed to present six
films annually by young filmmakers whose homelands are torn apart by violence
The invited filmmakers
included Najwa Najjar ("Naim and Wadee'a"), Elia Suleiman ("Cyber Palestine"),
and Hanna Elias ("The Mountain") from Palestine and Ilan Yagoda ("Rain"), Tayla
Exrahi ("The Jahalin"), and Eran Rilis ("Vulcan Junction") from Israel.
"This forum has provided
an important meeting place between both sides, who see that the issues are filmed
with remarkable similarity," said Palestinian director Hanna Elias, who also screened
a documentary on the making of Sesame Street in Israel and Palestine. "What amazes
me is that the enemy could make such movies of tolerance. This moves me to do
The program was sponsored
by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Foundation and the Dan and Ewa and Tammy Abraham
Foundation of Peace. The HIFF Decade Peace Prize, presented by the Abraham Foundation,
awarded a cash prize of $25,000 to Najjar's "Naim and Wadee'a," which deals with
the l948 expulsion of Palestinians from Jaffa, focusing on an upper-middle-class
"I felt it is really important
to show a different picture of Palestinians and continue humanizing the issue,"
said 33-year-old Najjar. "There is a constant barrage of news with no names, or
few names. But there are names. These are mothers, fathers, these are people who
Subjects were sympathetic
from the Israeli side, like "Rain," which compared the Holocaust refugees in Israel
with displaced Arabs, and "The Jahalin," documenting the struggles of the Bedouins
to remain nomadic on their land. The Israeli director of "The Jalahlin," Talya
Exrahi, said, "I feel direct anger at the Israeli government because I think most
of the cards are in their hands, because most of the casualties have been Palestinians.
So it's up to them to show goodwill and not to escalate the violence."
Directors expressed surprise
at their mutual meeting points, but universally complained about lack of distribution.
Susan Siegel, executive producer of "Peace of Mind," telecast on ABC's Nightline,
said that she was looking for PBS national distribution.
"These films brought us
together. It is not an Israeli or Palestinian film but an issue of belonging and
land," said Ezrahi at a panel discussion moderated by Livia Alexander, film curator
of Middle Eastern Studies at NYU. "The insights are all the same. With little
budget and no infrastructure, we are able to produce films and find an audience
at home." The festival featured more than 100 films, documentaries and videos
at this resort beach town in Long Island, outside Manhattan. Held at what is known
as the home to the stars, the festival has grown into a new outlet for films and
programs such as the Conflict and Resolution forum. TBS