"Encounter Point" moves beyond sensational and canned images to tell the story of an Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved... See full summary »
"Encounter Point" moves beyond sensational and canned images to tell the story of an Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved brother who sacrifice their safety, public standing and homes in order to press for a grassroots movement for nonviolence and peace. Written by
Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha
The success of Avni and Bacha's Encounter Point at Tribeca and other venues may be attributable to its refusal to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It follows both Israeli and Palestinian members of an unfortunate "club"--parents who have lost sons and daughters in the hostilities between the warring groups. They have formed a group that is attempting reconciliation among its own members first and then reaching out to bring about understanding on a national scale.
My attempt to make the summary above sound objective is clearly a failure. Even the summary takes sides. "Conflict" to many Israelis is too mild a word to describe what they term "acts of terrorism." When death comes from the gun of an Israeli soldier, it is a casualty of war from the Israeli point of view, but Palestinians see it as cold-blooded murder. Thus, when I use "warring," I am taking sides. And while I do not describe the group's aims as "forgiveness," "settlement," "compromise," or "appeasement," by adopting the film's use of the term "reconciliation," I am suggesting equivalence between the two positions.
The fact is that, as all documentaries, Encounter Point takes a position and is unmistakable in its sympathies. Despite that, viewers who disagree with the attitude will still find much to interest them in the film. If the point of view was responsible for its booking, the film's actual interviews are what make it worth seeing. To their credit, if they chose deliberately, and to the credit of their artistic temperament if they chose instinctively, the filmmakers provide unforgettable moments of clarity. A Palestinian member of the group takes the filmmakers to meet his mother in Arab Jerusalem. She urges him to tell the story of his arrest as a young man. He tells of being in a room with two young men who were building bombs. When the bombs exploded prematurely, he too was arrested and imprisoned for a decade. Interrupts the mother, "He wasn't even in the room. He was outside, getting a haircut." The son gently but firmly corrects her, admitting he was in the room but insisting he was minding his own business. What a seminal moment, with mother's love and memory combining to offer a palatable version of events.
A similar moment of clarity emerges during an interview on Israeli television. The group's representative urges Israelis to question the efficacy of a policy toward Palestinians that has created 50 years of hate. The moderator responds by asking the representative to consider the possibility that the hate has no basis, that Palestinians want them dead without a specific provocation. And the representative raises his shoulder in the classic Jewish response that non-verbally says, "Who knows." Unfortunately, that shrug of doubt undercuts the optimism that animates the movement toward peace.
Ultimately, the strength of this film does not lie in its hopeful presentation of the group's aims but in its accurate rendition of the group members with all their human sadness, determination, and naiveté. Their stories, Israeli and Palestinian, are heart rending.
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