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Filming the Occupation: A Roundtable Discussion with Three Filmmakers

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We are joined in the studio by three filmmakers who have each made films grappling with the Occupation. These films take us from the bustling streets of Tel Aviv to the desolate shops of occupied Bethlehem to the serene views of an Arab village turned Israeli artist colony. They trace themes of dispossession, militarism, despair, and rage. Beneath their surfaces lurks the near-physical sense of tension mounting: of fists clenching preparing to punch and muscles tightening waiting for the blow.

And yet the films are very different. They range from snapshots of daily life to an in-depth look at the history of a village. They come to us in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Their tones shift from ironic to nostalgic to bitter-sweet.

The filmmakers as well are quite different. There is Avi Mograbi, an Israeli-born filmmaker still living in Tel Aviv. Rachel Leah Jones, an American born Israeli now living in the United States. And Antonia Caccia, a British filmmaker who has been documenting the Occupation for the last 20 years. They have all been brought together by the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. They join us in the studio today.

Well, we are going to start with Rachel Leah Jones’s debut film, 500 DUNAM ON THE MOON. The movie tells the story of Ayn Hawd, a Palestinian village that was captured and depopulated by Israeli forces in the 1948 war. The village was “discovered” in 1953 by Marcel Janco, a Romanian painter and a founder of the Dada movement. Janco helped transform the village into a Jewish artists’ colony and renamed it Ein Hod. 500 DUNAM ON THE MOON tells the story of the village’s original inhabitants, the family that settled in the nearby hills after expulsion. This new Ayn Hawd cannot be found on official maps, because Israeli law doesn’t recognize it.


  • Rachel Leah Jones, director, 500 Dunam on the Moon. The film premiered last week at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.


  • 500 Dunam on the Moon

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AUGUST is partly a documentary, partly a fictional film that portrays a month in the life of filmmaker Avi Mograbi and his wife. The film documents the month of August 2000–a tense and seething period just before the Al Aqsa intifada. It takes the viewer from a group of Jewish settlers marching through the streets of Tel Aviv dressed as Arabs to a peace demonstration in front of the Ministry of Defense. From a young Palestinian refugee throwing stones across the Israeli-Lebanese border to a crowd of angry soccer fans. Through the lens of Avi Mograbi’s camera, the month of August becomes an apt metaphor for all that is brutal and hateful in Israel.


  • Avi Mograbi, wrote, directed, and produced the film August: A Moment Before the Eruption. Mograbi was born and raised in Israel, where he still lives there today. He has produced a number of films, including Happy Birthday Mr. Mograbi and How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Arik Sharon.


  • August: A Moment Before the Eruption

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BETHLEHEM DIARY examines the occupation through the lens of Christmas in Bethlehem in the year 2000. The town was expecting five million visitors to celebrate the end of the millennium, but the streets are deserted, the hotels shut, the shops empty. The Israeli army has closed off Bethlehem since the second Intifada began the previous September. Areas of the town have been heavily shelled and ruins are everywhere. People are talking about whether they should stay or go.

BETHLEHEM DIARY focuses on two middle-class Palestinian families and a human rights lawyer during this tumultuous period. It shows their struggles to live under curfew and closure, their every move monitored by the Israeli army. Six months later, in July 2001, the film takes us back. The heightening pressures and tensions are finally forcing these families into the painful decision to leave their homes.


  • Antonia Caccia, Director, Bethlehem Diary. This is her fourth film about Israel-Palestine.


  • Bethlehem Diary

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