The Arty Semite

Robert de Niro and Christiane Amanpour Bring Arabs and Jews Together

By Dan Friedman

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Julia Bacha, director of “Budrus.”

The Tribeca Film Festival 2010 gathers pace. On Thursday night, at the Japan Society Queen Noor of Jordan and TFF founder Jane Rosenthal introduced the new film, “Budrus” (to be reviewed in next week’s Forward) from Julia Bacha and Justvision. That mixture of Jewish and Arab representation was the feature of an evening attended by TFF co-founder Robert de Niro.

A hard-won record of nonviolent demonstrations against the intrusion of the Israel security barrier into village land and culture, “Budrus” — about the village of the same name — is an extended appreciation of the complexities and difficulties of resistance to injustice. But, at the same time, it’s the story of an arab village defeating the IDF and saluting the victory with heartfelt “allahu akbar.”

The list of important Jewish sponsors of the film is impressive but not as impressive as the number of Jewish attendees of this North American premier. But they, like me, surely felt conflicted as they clapped the noble conclusion and the cast of Israelis and international protesters who supported Ayed Morrar, the leader of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Budrus.

After the film Christiane Amanpour moderated a panel that included director Julia Bacha, producer Ronit Avni and the film’s protagonist Ayed Morrar. Unfortunately reduced by the limitations on travel caused by the smoke from Eyjafjallajokull the panel produced little more than platitudes despite interruptions from Israeli anarchists who wanted to point out that the “Wall” was a means of separating arabs from their land.

Amanpour, engaging as always, questioned the reasons for the ostensible lack of other examples of nonviolent resistance. The panel seemed united in the opinion that the vast preponderance of resistance was indeed nonviolent but its general ineffectiveness was part of a cycle where it got little media coverage and stayed ineffective.

The middle-aged, quietly-spoken Morrar sat, hands between his knees, rolling his feet over at the ankle while waiting to speak. Almost, but not quite, embarrassed to be on stage, this was a man who had taken responsibility for the rights of his whole village and had led it through many years of struggle against the IDF. When the filmmakers said that they were trying to safeguard the rights of fragile organizations such as the one he had formed — an interpolitical and international coalition of respect — our applause was less conflicted: his smile, for once, beaming.

Watch a trailer for the film “Budrus” below.


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