Psychical Impact of Unsolved Conflicts

in 27th International Film Festival of Kerala

by Katharina Dockhorn

Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers focus on daily racism

This Indian festival dedicated to films from Asia, Africa and Latin America showed two films from the middle east region in the international competition program dealing with subjects of racism in an authentic way. Both films are showing prejudices against minorities which only can be named racism.

Daily racism in western societies

A lot of refugees from African countries reached Israel during the last couple of years. More than 50.000 people, most of them originally from Eritrea and Sudan, live in Israel now.

Their situation is picked up by Israeli filmmaker Idan Haguel in his drama Concerned Citizen (Ezrah Mudag, Israel 2022). His main character Ben (Shlomi Bertonov) is based on his own experiences. Ben lives with his husband Raz (Ariel Wolf) in a state-of-the-art apartment in southern Tel Aviv. The liberal neighborhood itself is named Neve Sha’anan, a hot spot for immigrants and the white privileged LGBTQ community. Ben loves the surroundings but does not like all the changes taking place. As he observes two Africans leaning on a tree he planted, he calls the police. Ben observes the policeman beating one of the suspects inflicting life-threatening injuries.

The melodrama follows Ben dealing with his feelings of guilt and his responsibility. He must face his own prejudices and his ignorance. The process is played brilliantly by Shlomi Bertonov with the camera underlining his uncertainty. With this approach, the story which can be told in a lot of western societies invites viewers to step into the shoes of Ben and ask themselves how they would handle the same situation.

Born to be not rebellious

Palestinian filmmaker Firas Khoury is one of the major discoveries of 2022 and one of the directors to be watched for. His powerful coming-of-age film The Flag (Alam) won the Golden Pyramid award at the Cairo International Film Festival and took home the prize as the best debut film of the 27th International Film Festival in Kerala 2022.

The Flag (Palestine, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Tunesia 2022) puts light on the situation of Palestinian teenagers living in a politically volatile village in Israel-occupied Galilee. The parents want the youngsters to be quiet and customized to get a proper education and a good job. The situation for a group of middle-class high school students changes when the good-looking and rebellious Maysaa (Jaboor Kawn) joins their school. For the Israeli Independence Day which is on the same day as the Palestinian Nakba, seventeen-year-old Tamer (Mahmoud Bakri), his friends, and Maysaa develop a dangerous plan. The group wants to replace the Israeli flag on the rooftop of the school with the Palestinian one.

The action represents a kind of political awakening for Tamar. The performance of Mahmoud Bakri is very subtle yet strong. He was awarded the prize for best actor in Cairo for his role in this touching drama. In the story, the director incorporates general questions about the nation, nationality, and the importance of flags for minorities all over the world.

Katharina Dockhorn
Edited by Ron Fogel