Saturday, September 25, 2004

Canada - Palestine Film Festival

I decided to take in a few films showing at Cinemateque for the Canada - Palestine Film Festival. There was some controversey with B'Nai Brith saying that the festival would promote hatred. They even called on police and the Mayor to provide "...additional security measures to be put in place to ensure the safety of the Jewish community."

The first film, The Lobby, is a 25-minute look at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC.) Interviewed in the film are Steve Grossman - a former president of AIPAC, Malcolm Hoenlein - Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations representative, and J.J. Goldberg - Jewish weekly Forward editor, among others. All provide candid insights to how AIPAC manages to weild its very considerable influence. Someone makes the point that if the NRA (National Rifle Association) wishes to donate money to a political candidate, they are limited by a $5,000 cap. AIPAC cleverly gets around this ceiling, though. They simply get their members associations to each pony up $5,000 and with many, many members, they can truly wield a huge amount of influence. One of the criticisms of AIPAC's strategy, however, is that many of their member associations have names that totally do not mention Israel or Judasism whatsoever. This makes it all the more difficult for constituents to figure out to what extent their representatives are beholden to pro-Israel issues.

In one particularly poignant scene, a group of women from AIPAC are seen getting their photo taken with
Denise Majette, a new Georgia congresswoman. They then proceed to tell her that she needs to be educated in issues, obviously from their point of view. At one point, the camerman asks the congresswoman for her perspective on a report that is critical of Israel but the congresswoman declines to comments since she hadn't read the report. The previous congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, was criticised for being not pro-Israel.

I believe Noam Chomsky spoke about a high-ranking politician who incurred the wrath of AIPAC and was easily defeated by a nobody who was over 40 points behind in the polls, to drive home the point that AIPAC can change politicians on occaision. In the film, Chomsky also spoke about an AIPAC file leaked to him that was to be given to Alan Dershowitz for a debate the two were to have. The purpose of the file was to give his opponent information to draw the debate off topic and question Chomsky's character, instead, which is a popular tactic.

Overall, this was a very interesting documentry.

Arna's Children was the main feature. This film showcased an Israeli woman, Arna Mer-Khamis, who helped to nuture a children's theatre in Palestine. She and her son Juliano, the director of the film, became like family to these adolescents. We see scene after scene of children who grew up only to be killed as terrorists or victims of the struggle. As children, it appears as if there is hope that they will grow up to be sensible adults. It was disappointing to see them change their hearts and choose death, instead. In one funny moment, one of the children states that when Julino first showed up in the refuee camp, they thought he was a spy for Israel. Later on, they accepted him as a brother.

There are seeds of hope being spread in that most troubled part of the world, and this is a great thing, even if many of the seeds end up on the wrong side of the tracks.

Finally, Rana's Wedding is the only work of fiction in the festival, and it, too, showed a glimmer of hope.

Motherless, Rana's father is heading to Egypt, and she must either pick a man from a list of admirers to marry, or travel with her father. Frantic, she looks all over for her lover Khalil, to try to marry him before her father leaves. Along the way she encounters problems with finding a registrar who can marry them, her father who is against Khalil and prefers the men on the list who are well-educated and in high-paying jobs. Along the way, Rana has her doubts, too, about Khalil.

While not a comedy, there are many funny moments in this film. Rana struggles agains odds and tries to find some normalcy while facing the inconvenience of the occupation. The ending was very appropriate. Rana's Wedding is definitely a quality film and a welcome one from a most tragic part of the world.

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