UFOs and hope: films probe "future" Jerusalem

Wed Jan 5, 2011 9:11am EST
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters Life!) - Will aliens and zombies rampage through these ancient stone causeways, forcing Israelis and Palestinians to turn their weapons against a common foe?

Or will Jerusalem be miraculously rid of sectarian division, its barricades levitating into space and replaced, perhaps, with Dubai-like skyscrapers or a rash of commercial branding? What would Jesus do, were Arab and Jew to stop warring there at last?

To judge by an Israeli-sponsored competition of animated short films envisaging Jerusalem a century hence, things won't go easier for the city at the heart of the Middle East conflict.

But against the drag of science-fiction dystopia, there are currents of hope -- the kind that organizers believe will have Hollywood appeal, not least given the world-class filmmakers who served as jury for the contest, dubbed "Jerusalem 2111."

Winner of the $10,000 prize was U.S.-based cinema student David Gidali, whose 2-minute-long "Secular Quarter" shows a Jewish couple, religious and non-religious, coming face-to-face as UFOs remove the huge cages sealing off their neighborhoods.

"I ended the movie with an optimistic note, to start a thought-process and to get people to ask themselves, 'Wait a minute, do we actually need extra-terrestrial vehicles to come and lift the walls between us, or is it something that we can do by ourselves?'," Gidali said at the awards ceremony on Friday.

Competition entries drew on everything from rudimentary stop-motion animation to computer-generated graphics worthy of a modern studio, and were submitted over YouTube. Municipal authorities provided aerial footage of Jerusalem for download.

"Secular Quarter" and two runners-up were chosen from among 10 finalists by a panel including "Avatar" producer Jon Landau, German director Wim Wenders and "Asterix" animators Paul and Gaetan Brizzi.   Continued...