News From Ramaz

Senior Modern Israel Class Attends Other Israeli Film Festival at JCC
Posted 11/14/2018 11:20AM


Last week, Ms. Barak's Honors Modern Israel Senior class trekked crosstown to the Manhattan JCC, to participate in the opening night of the annual "Other Israeli Film Festival." This week-long festival featured over twelve Hebrew or Arabic films and documentaries. As the founder stressed o opening night, the festival aims to present films that inspire conversation. Stemming from the name "Other Film Festival," each film offers a unique perspective from the minorities in Israel, especially the Palestinian minority. To spark these conversations, each film concluded with an in-depth look at the film and the meaning of some of the artistic choices. My classmates and I got to have one such conversation with a creative mind who worked behind the camera -- Tzahi Grad, one of the movie directors of The Cousin.

Weeks before the festival began, my classmates and I chose the movie we wished to attend among a long list of titles. One movie, The Cousin, stood out to us because of its categorization as a comedy. The description read, "A well-intentioned Arab handyman upends daily life in an Israeli village. After a woman is assaulted and the community quickly turns accusatory, his Israeli employer is the only local who believes him."

Furthermore, the day of the movie marked the deadline of Early Decision College Applications and we determined that it would be a fitting, educational and enjoyable way to celebrate. Just as we predicted, the movie was entertaining. While it was nothing close to a Jonah Hill comedy, it was comedic in its own very special way. It tackled the societal discrimination and prejudice between Israeli and Palestinian towns throughout Israel. This was not a Mossad or Fauda-like film; It approached the conflict with humor, while emphasizing the harsh reality of its meaning. In the movie, a Jewish man, in a Jewish neighborhood, hires an Arab man from the town next door to assist him in renovating his home. When a local teen is assaulted, all fingers quickly point to the only Arab in the area. Before the viewer knew it, guns were removed from their holsters while the Arab hid for his life. In conclusion, the man's boss was able to prove that his worker was innocent, and the movie ended with a funny, "kumbaya" moment. While the story line may sound harsh, as the director mentioned later, it is important to laugh, while maintaining a sense of understanding that this culture is very real in Israel.

In all, the audience's reactions were mixed. Some laughed, and some were angry and confused. However, no matter our ethos, the director accomplished what the film festival was created for: opening up a dialogue and making people think. This experience is one of many more that I look forward to while taking this course.

-Jonah S. '19

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