THE ROOF (Kamal Aljafari). 56 minutes. Subtitled. 1:30 pm. Rating: NNN
BRIDGE OVER THE WADI (Barak and Tomer Heymann). 60 minutes. Subtitled. 3 pm. Both Sunday (June 22) at the Royal as a double bill. See Indie & Rep Film. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Given how easily heated rhetoric gets in the way of complexity on the subject of Israel/Palestine, Voices Forward’s compelling double bill feels like a fresh breeze.
The films are totally different: The Roof is a meditative and elegiac evocation of Palestinian life after 1948; Bridge Over The Wadi is a much more conventional documentary about a school established for Arab and Israeli children.
Kamal Aljafari’s The Roof, winner of the best international on-screen (video) award at Images 2008, tracks the filmmaker’s family. His parents live in Ramleh, a once thriving crossroads now sinking into decay. The home they were forced into in 1948 is still without a roof; hence the film’s title.
Aljafari’s grandmother, a resident of Jaffa, tried to leave Palestine with her family in 1948, but bad weather forced them back home. The way her story is told, it’s as if she has lived ever since in a state of stasis, still waiting to leave.
But The Roof is not a polemic. In fact, a sequence in which one of Aljafari’s relatives talks about his inability to get into Jordan points to the complicity of Israel’s neighbours in this painful neglect.
In Bridge Over The Wadi, Arab and Jewish parents attempt a groundbreaking experiment in co-?education. The idea is that students learn both Arabic and Hebrew and about each other’s cultures.
But the parents get cold feet. Jewish families can’t figure out why their kids are going to the mosque, while Arabs feel like Hebrew is being given priority.
Not everyone’s over their prejudices. A Jewish woman is vicious to the young Arab friend her grandson brings home.The children, on the other hand, are totally into it. As is often the case, the kids’ attitudes are way ahead of the adults’. We learn at the end that the school’s enrolment has doubled in its second year.
As a double bill, Aljafari’s subtle film about how an entire population has been relegated to second-class status in Israel shows us the bitter reality, and Bridge Over The Wadi offers a glimmer of hope.