The Middle East, as usual, is a mess, but its cinema, both Israeli and Palestinian, offers hope. Now in its sixth year, the Boston Palestine Film Festival screens films that show a little-seen world in the hopes of promoting understanding, reconciliation, and peace.
That is the goal of the idealistic volunteers — American, Israeli, and Palestinian — in Aaron Dennis's documentary, The People and the Olive (2012; screens October 7 at 2:30 pm; the director will be in attendance). Ultra-marathoners, they are running the length of the West Bank and planting olive trees to "bring people together." It's a worthy cause, but the film doesn't include the point of view of the Israelis, who are the people with whom they most need to connect.
"Music and art bring people together," says someone in The People and the Olive. But as seen in Susan Youssef's wrenching Habibi (2011; screens October 5 at 7 pm; the director will be in attendance), it's not easy being a poet in Palestine. Qays writes poems on walls expressing his love for Layla, but her family has pledged her to a rich man, and her brother, now a member of Hamas after his friend was shot by an Israeli, wants to kill Qays for tainting his sister's name. The lovers seemed doomed, but maybe the poetry will endure.
The lovers in Habibi seek refuge in Gaza, which is where, ironically, the reality of war catches up with Al Jazeera correspondents Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros in Abdallah Salem Omeish's The War Around Us (2012; screens October 13 at 5:30 pm; the director will be in attendance). In 2008 the Israelis began Operation Cast Lead, attacking Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks, and Tadros and Omeish were the only network people on the ground. The film shows the cost of war but without the context, and sometimes focuses more on the reporters than on what they are reporting, but its images of carnage can be understood by everyone.
SIXTH ANNUAL BOSTON PALESTINE FILM FESTIVAL :: Museum of Fine Arts :: October 5-13 :: bostonpalestinefilmfest.org