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1 item from 2002


15 March 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- Arriving on our screens with an all too unfortunate timeliness considering the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East, this Oscar nominated documentary mostly succeeds in its aim of humanizing the Arab-Israeli conflict by examining it in microcosm, through the eyes of seven Palestinian and Israeli children living in or near the divided city of Jerusalem. While this video film could have benefited from some trimming -- a little of what children say often goes a long way -- "Promises" is at times an almost unbearably moving portrait of innocence lost and how ideologies easily infect young minds.

The movie is a collaboration among three filmmakers: Justine Shapiro, an American of South African descent; B.Z. Goldberg, an American who has lived in Israel for many years, and Carlos Bolado, a Mexican film editor. Together, they shot this effort on video, primarily between 1997 and 2000, during a period of relative calm in the region following the Oslo Accords.

The children profiled, who range in age from 11 to 13, include Yarko and Daniel, Israeli twins; Mahmoud, a Palestinian and avowed supporter of Hamas; Schlomo, an orthodox Jew who says he studies the Torah 12 hours a day; Sanabel, a secular Arab who uses dance to express Palestinian themes; Faraj, a Palestinian who lives in a refugee camp; and Moishe, a right-wing Israeli who dreams of revenge. The Arab and Israeli children all live within minutes of each other, but in divided sections of the city that may as well be different worlds.

The scenes featuring this disparate group yield a wealth of resonant moments. Yarko and Daniel interrogate their obviously embarrassed grandfather, whose family was killed in the Holocaust, about his lack of belief in God. They also describe in matter of fact fashion the mental precautions they must take every time they simply board a bus. Sanabel weeps while talking about her father, who has been incarcerated in an Israeli prison for the past two years. Moishe visits the grave of his 12-year-old friend who had been killed by terrorists. And so on. The tragedies, thankfully, are periodically leavened by more lighthearted moments, such as the spontaneous and friendly belching contest that breaks out between Israeli and Arab children, providing a convincing demonstration of true childhood priorities.


Cowboy Pictures

Directors/writers/producers: Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg

Co-director/editor: Carlos Bolado

Executive oroducer: Janet Cole

Directors of photography: Yoram Millo, Ilan Buchbinder


Running time -- 106 minutes

No MPAA rating


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