Films in Venice portray hope, hurdles for Jewish-Palestinian ties

Thu Sep 5, 2013 11:28am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - In Amos Gitai's film "Ana Arabia", premiered in Venice this week, a Palestinian whose late wife was an Auschwitz survivor and Muslim convert treks to Arab cities to find a dentist instead of one five minutes away in Tel Aviv.

In "Bethlehem", the work of an Israeli director and Palestinian screenwriter, an Israeli Shin Bet secret service agent uses a young Palestinian boy as an informant with tragic consequences, mostly because they have become close friends.

The two Israeli films shown at the Venice Film Festival depict Israelis and Palestinians married or working closely together. But alongside these glimmers of hope lie deep misunderstandings and enmities that reinforce the impression of an unbridgeable divide.

Gitai's "Ana Arabia" is in competition for the top Venice awards, the Golden Lions, to be awarded on Saturday. Yuval Adler's "Bethlehem" is being screened out of competition.

Gitai, who has made some 80 feature films and shorts over four decades, said he was drawn to the true story of a Polish Auschwitz survivor living with her Arab husband in a village on the outskirts of Tel Aviv as a way to undermine stereotypes and show the need to embrace diversity.

The film is made from a single 81-minute shot, uncut.

The camera trails an Israeli journalist called Yael, played by Sarah Adler, walking through alleyways and into houses and a garden that had been reclaimed by the dead Jewish-Muslim woman from a stone-and-rubble-strewn plot.

Yael interviews the woman's husband Youssef, who says his family has lived in the area for 150 years, and talks to her children and relatives about her and their lives.   Continued...

Director Amos Gitai (R) poses with actress Yuval Scharf during a red carpet for the movie "Ana Arabia" during the 70th Venice Film Festival in Venice September 3, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi