VOICES FORWARD: FILM AND CULTURE ABOUT PEOPLE FROM ISRAEL & PALESTINE at the Royal Cinema (608 College), Thursday to Sunday (May 31 to June 3). All films in Arabic, French or Hebrew with subtitles. $10, stu/srs $7. http://voicesforward.org. Rating: NNNNN
BRIDGE OVER THE WADI (Barak Heymann, Tomer Heymann, Israel). Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles. 55 minutes. Sunday (June 3), 9 pm. Rating: NNNN
The Brothers Heymann should give lessons in filmmaking concision. In just 55 perfectly packed minutes, they construct a complex and balanced look at the inherent duality of Israeli life. The result: this gem of a doc about a bilingual and bi-cultural school in Israel's Wadi valley.
The students, 50 Jews and 50 Arabs, do all the things most school kids do: have sleepovers, go to amusement parks, play games. But they can't escape their parents' prejudices - or their teachers'.
These can be relatively benign, in the case of the Jewish atheist who doesn't want her son participating in Muslim prayers. But there's also the Jewish grandmother who with quiet menace grills her young Arab guest about suicide bombers, or the Arab father who flatly tells his daughter's Jewish playmate that his daughter will die if they ever fall in love.
Bridge Over the Wadi School may or may not succeed. But Bridge Over The Wadi the film is already a success; a near-perfect example of the documentary form.
WE TOO HAVE NO OTHER LAND (Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Israel). Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles. 60 minutes. Saturday (June 2), 3 pm. Rating: NNN
Sport and identity can become too closely entwined, as any member of Leafs Nation can testify. We Too Have No Other Land shows what happens when the two become one because no other formal identity exists.
Bnei Sakhnin is the football club of an Arab village in Galilee. The coach and some players are Jewish, but the captain and star of the team are Arab. In what may be the best argument ever for club sports, the citizens of Sakhnin overcome their differences for a common goal.
The film is slanted towards the Arabic point of view, but it is no propaganda piece; everyone interviewed is thoughtful and moderate in their opinions - at least until game day. I wish the film had shown more of the game and less of sweaty Sakhnin fans calling the Jerusalem supporters whores, but compared to, say, Britain's football hooligans, they come off looking pretty good.
GOAL DREAMS (Maya Sanbar, Jeffrey Saunders, Palestine). 84 minutes. English and Arabic with English subtitles. Saturday (June 2), 4:30 pm. Rating: NNN
In another doc about soccer as identity, filmmakers Maya Sanbar and Jeffrey Saunders follow the efforts of the Palestinian national team to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Having no home field, the club must practise in Egypt and play its "home" game in Qatar.
The players come from around the world - Gaza, the West Bank, Chile and America - and face barriers both literal and figurative. The football styles don't mesh. The Austrian coach speaks English that is translated badly into Spanish and Arabic. And the players from Gaza arrive mere days before the qualifying match; the Israelis won't let them out of the country.
The film is less overtly political than We Too Have No Other Land, but, as the coach points out, you can't avoid politics when Palestine is involved. The filmmakers show more of the beautiful game itself, which makes the outcome of the match that much more exciting and poignant.
But watching it take place in an empty stadium makes you realize the fans' vital contribution. Were these two films shaken together, they'd make the ideal soccer doc.