Palestinians are rock-throwing, Jew-hating, suicide-bombing terrorists.
Israelies are cold-blooded, land-grabbing, Zionist occupiers and murderers.
Spend any time following Middle East politics and you hear these stereotypes over and over. Views on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have only hardened in recent years, as a future of peaceful coexistence seems more and more unlikely. But what if another world is possible, as the saying goes, and already exists?
The new documentary Budrus, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week, tells the remarkable story of how a Palestinian activist prevented the Israeli army from annexing his small village’s land (and precious olive trees) during construction of the Israeli Separation Barrier. “The barrier did something unexpected,” the film’s narration notes, bringing together disparate elements of Palestinian society, including Fatah and Hamas members, in nonviolent resistance, with Israeli, South African and American activists joining the cause. Budrus chronicles a small victory in a much larger and uncertain battle, but with so much hopelessness in the region, it’s worth highlighting and, hopefully, emulating.
After producer/director Ronit Avni, who grew up in Montreal with a Canadian mother and Israeli father, finished the 2006 documentary Encounter Point, audiences in the West kept asking her, “Where is the Palestinian nonviolent movement?” That question led her to Budrus, an arid village of 1,400 in the West Bank, and community organizer Ayed Morrar and his daughter Iltezam, the charismatic stars of the film. They began filming in 2007, after Israel adjusted the route of the barrier in response to Ayed’s protests, relying on footage from dozens of activists who captured the action as it was ongoing.
Of course, the barrier still went up, though closer to pre-1967 borders, and suicide bombings in Israel have decreased in recent years, though whether that’s because of the wall remains a matter of debate. And, as we know, Israeli settlement activity has only increased under Bibi Netanyahu’s right-wing government, further dashing any chance of productive peace talks. Budrus screened at Tribeca against this bleak backdrop and became a surprise hit, playing to packed houses and winning a special jury mention.
The film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival in December and will screen at the Jerusalem International Film Festival this July. Avni and director Julia Bacha are hoping to land a US distributor soon. In these trying times, Budrus needs to be seen.