This month, a citywide film festival offers the opportunity to look at contemporary Israel from perspectives not often represented on campus. The fifth annual Other Israel Film Festival will run from Nov. 10 to 17, with screenings at the Jewish Community Center (334 Amsterdam Ave., at West 76th Street), Cinema Village (22 E. 12th St., between Fifth Avenue and University Place), and select venues at NYU. The festival screens independent films that raise awareness of the intricacies and complexities of everyday life in Israel. Each screening is followed by a discussion panel with directors and experts.
The festival, whose advisory board includes Richard Peña, professor of film studies at Columbia, focuses on elements of Israeli society that are often overlooked by media. Dramas or documentaries, these films explore the individual stories of Arab and Palestinian citizens and other minority populations in Israel.
Isaac Zabloki, executive director of the festival, said it is an opportunity “to see other narratives, other voices that are coming out of this region that are not necessarily the most popular voices but are authentic and important voices nonetheless.”
The film “Shout,” which screens Sunday, Nov. 13 at the JCC, is a Dutch film about two best friends born in Israel who embark on an adventure to their unknown homeland of Syria. The documents their life lived moment-to-moment in Damascus.
Another film, “77 Steps,” which will show at the JCC and NYU King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center the weekend of Nov. 11, is a documentary about director Ibtisam Mara’ana, who leaves her Arab Muslim village and moves to Tel Aviv. A love story evolves between her and her neighbor, a recent Jewish immigrant from Canada. They both experience complicated feelings of belonging and home in a setting of increasing political and social conflict.
These films grant viewers an opportunity to travel into the private worlds of different people. Often telling autobiographical stories, the filmmakers aim to bring issues of community, identity, social revolution, and the experience of women in Israel to the international community.
“Dolphin Boy” features a teenager named Morad, who was severely bullied in his childhood and suffers from post-traumatic shock. His family moves to the Red Sea from an Arab village in northern Israel after being told dolphin-assisted therapy is the last option to cure him. It is a story of the power of healing, finding one’s identity, and overcoming the past. The film will screen Thursday, Nov. 10 at the festival’s Opening Night Gala at JCC.
The panel discussions and events will speak to issues addressed in the films.
“Represented in all the films is not necessarily the mainstream voice but beautiful and important voices that are really representative of what Israel is,” Zabloki said. Most of all, the festival is about people and the celebration of the individual narrative.