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This is a film that needs to be seen everywhere because it provides a
"new" narrative that challenges all preconceptions and stereotypes,
which have been some of the greatest obstacles to peace. The filmmaker,
Lisa Gossels, should be thanked for focusing on the lives of young
girls. Too often, the voice of women/girls is ignored and forgotten in
media, although they often play some of the most significant roles in
bringing about social change. I commend Ms. Gossels for bringing our
focus back on to the women in the struggle and their desire to build
bridges for peace and reconciliation.
Being a female film producer/director takes courage in and of itself, but having the commitment and insight to present a new narrative as "her story" (v. the traditional "his" story) is radically bold and refreshing!
"My So-Called Enemy" chronicles the experiences over a period of
several years of six remarkable young women from Palestine and Israel,
from their participation at a camp in New Jersey (a program called
"Building Bridges") to their homes in Israel and the Palestinian
territories and beyond. The conflict in that region provides a backdrop
for the film, but the primary focus of the film is the transformative
and re-humanizing power of compassionate listening and the forging of
personal connections between people who are, due to their
circumstances, supposed to see each "other" as enemies. The film is not
at all a "message" film though, it is remarkably non-ideological and
makes no attempt to simplify the complicated or offer easy solutions to
the seemingly intractable difficulties faced by the subjects of the
film. It is a personal and sometimes painfully intimate portrait of the
deep psychological complexities young people encounter when faced with
historic social conflict in their personal and public lives. Triumphs
of friendship in apparently impossible circumstances, heartbreak and
frustration with the terrible costs of conflict, and the gradual coming
of age of each of the participants in the film are all addressed
The subject matter of this film is, in my estimation, applicable to so many of the conflicts we face in our lives. Whether the issue is immigration, economic class, race, religion, etc, there are numerous touch points in the film that will provide a valuable starting point for important dialogue.
This moving, real, and guardedly hopeful documentary follows six young
women--three Palestinians and three Israelis--during and after a "peace
camp" which insists that they listen to each others' deepest feelings
about what divides them. They struggle to open each other up, reach
out, become friends, and significantly though tenuously bridge the
chasm between them even as bombs and rockets explode. These young
women, each in her own way, choose futures which may light paths out of
an intractable conflict. You will be glad you met them.
Oh, and bring hankies. Even the guys in the audience were crying, and not for sadness.
I just saw this movie at a local film festival. I found myself with
tears running down my face at the end.
This is a movie about humanity. And, it's a movie about hope and hopelessness all at once. It's a movie about the irony that exists in all of our lives. And, most importantly, it's about the power of communication, whether or not you ultimately agree.
One of the most amazing things about the film is that it follows the girls for seven years. So, you get to see what the long term effects of the peace camp are for them. The one thing that's missing is some understanding about how these girls found out about the camp. And, if they are hand chosen in any way. But, that is a minor complaint relative to the overall success of the film.
I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in the faces and stories buried deep behind the crazy "conflicts" that exist all over the world today, including in the Middle East. Bravo to the film maker!
My So-Called Enemy (2010) is a bold documentary directed by U.S.
filmmaker Lisa Gossels. In 2002, an organization called Building
Bridges for Peace brought a group of teenage girls from Israel and
Palestine to the United States to participate in a leadership training
Most filmmakers would have completed a documentary about the workshop, which could have made an interesting movie. Gossels didn't do this. She took a far more daring approach by selecting six of the young woman in advance. Then she concentrated her footage during the program on these six teenagers. (I believe two are Christian, two Jewish, and two Muslim.)
Gossels didn't stop there. She followed all six women for the next seven years, as they matured into adulthood. Again that was a daring move, one that could have left her with thousands of hours of footage and no film to show for it.
However, Gossels' gamble was successful. She has completed a documentary that proves to us that the bridges of friendship and respect can endure even the impossible strains put on them by the political, psychological, and physical barriers between Israel and Palestine.
This film was shown at Rochester's Little Theatre as part of the superb Rochester Jewish Film Festival. It will work well on DVD. Bringing the filmmaker to Rochester for a pre- and post-film discussion was a gift to the audience, and a real coup for the RJFF and its director, Lori Harter.
I personally was overwhelmed, exhilarated, and informed by this
remarkable film, by its sensitivity, persistence, detail, artistry and
its potential to challenge and change ideas.
My So-Called Enemy, powerfully draws viewers into the individual stories and struggles of three Palestinian and three Israeli young women during the Peace Camp they are attending in New Jersey. Tension builds and humour relieves, and tears can be shed! The audience has the unique experience of following these young people over seven years when they face the challenges of becoming adults in their respective societies and of finding their way to continue to build and maintain bridges to peace.
If you are interested in the challenges to individuals in societies experiencing conflict, in the challenges to filmmakers to show this with sensitivity and artistry and a balanced view, in the challenges specially to women, you will want to see this film, and to tell family and friends to do so as well.
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