You won't find this film on IMDb.
This week, I went to my first film at the Frontier Café +Cinema+Gallery. I recommend you check it out if you haven't done so already. Great open space, lots of healthy food options, and quality events programming, there's something for everyone. This month, Frontier is screening the film "My Friend, My Enemy," a enthralling documentary about a group of Israeli and Palestinian girls who met at a peace camp in America in the summer of 2000. By 2003, when the film was shot, the deeply entrenched societal conflicts of the region had divided the friends in more than just location.
It is clear that no easy solution to the conflict exists, but showing the opinions of 17-year-old girls offered a perspective I have never come across before.
As with much of the Palestinian-Israeli war, it was hard to explain away the injustices. One Palestinian witnessed a murder at a border crossing, and it threw this "sweet, innocent" girl off. She subsequently attended a protest, where she was arrested for allegedly throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers and sentenced to two years in prison.
A harsh sentence, perhaps. But harsher still when it turned out she had only threatened to throw rocks and hadn't actually done so.
The girl's friends say of the Israelis that the soldiers are the enemy. These are the guards who protect injustices like hers and the 30-year prison sentence of another girl's brother. If another Palestinian girl saw her Israeli friends at the border, she would not say hello as her friend was transformed into an enemy.
The Israeli girls face struggles, too, which are different, but no less difficult. In their country, army service is a prerequisite for basic opportunities in adult life like college scholarships and applying for top jobs. While some Israelis protest their government's actions, doors close that prevent them from fully participating in society.
So who is more "correct?" What side has more of a right to exert national pride and fight for what they believe in? Do these two desires have to be mutually exclusive?
Director Mazen Sa'adeh, like the rest of us, isn't so sure. His portrayal of the girls from both sides as they grapple with these questions is perhaps the most commendable aspect of the film. Showing them with grace and respect is no easy feat, considering how much is personally at stake for him as well.
A noted Palestinian writer and a man with great humility, he was present after the film for a spirited Q & A session.
His calm discussion of the quagmire in Palestine and Israel belied the nine years he spent in a Jordanian prison for political activism. His calmness stood in contrast to the passion of the girls, who ultimately believed the ability to stand up for their rights was important enough to have it come at the expense of their friends on the other side.
The situation as it is today will not last into the indefinite future. The stalemate will eventually be broken, but the anger that increases the occurence of injustice cannot help anyone. Only peace can solve these issues, but the atrocities already committed in Palestine, Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon may render the costs of war far worse than anything students today have witnessed.