In the spring of 2014, Palestinian-American actor Thom Bishops shot his 17th film, Time Out of Mind. The movie stars Richard Gere and Jena Malone, and Bishops was cast in the role of a vegan chef who offers kindness (and food) to a homeless man played by Gere. The film is enjoying success on the festival circuit—it showed at Rome and Toronto (where it won the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Prize) in October, among others.
Besides being slickly made, this documentary about Palestinian female rally-race drivers, directed by first-time filmmaker Amber Fares, delivers a spirited, crowd-pleasing portrait of four tenacious, strong-minded young women determined to express themselves in their heavily male-dominated culture and sport.
The Ajyal Youth Film Festival opened in Doha’s Katara Village with the pulsating documentary Speed Sisters, about the first all-women rally-racing team in the Arab world. The film is directed by Amber Fares, who grew up in northern Alberta as the child of Lebanese immigrants. After 9/11, when mosques started being attacked in Canada, Fares wanted to better understand Arab culture so went to the Middle East.
Amber Fares' Speed Sisters is cool, fast-paced, insightful and fun to watch. Everything a documentary about the first all-women race car driving team in the Middle East should be, and more. With an infectious soundtrack which includes songs by my new obsession Hanouneh -- a Swedish/Palestinian musical sensation who successfully fuses Dancehall beats with Arab sounds and English lyrics -- it's the perfect film to kick off a festival in style.
SodaStream, the Israeli manufacturer of home carbonation systems that this year became a focal point of an international movement to boycott Israeli products made in the occupied West Bank, plans to close its factory there next year. The company’s stock and revenue have waned since the controversy erupted in January, when the actress Scarlett Johansson became its spokeswoman and resigned from a similar post at Oxfam International, which opposes Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
In August the Washington Post ran an article entitled, "Celebrities Get Nasty Over Gaza and Israel," which began, "Your average celebrity feud starts with a personal slight that escalates into a hashtag-laden Twitter battle and culminates with a late-night talk show appearance. But when celebs fight about Israel and the Palestinians, things can get really ugly. Recently, Hollywood had a lot to say about the conflict in the region -- and much of it wasn't very nice."
SodaStream announced during an earnings call yesterday that it was pretty much ditching sweet soda and re-rebranding as a carbonated water company. It is also said it would close its controversial factory in the West Bank that led to a worldwide consumer boycott and caused spokeswoman Scarlett Johansson to resign in January as an ambassador for Oxfam after eight years with the group.
They want to view me as a ‘good Israeli Arab director’ or a ‘nice Israeli Arab,’” says filmmaker Suha Arraf, who recently came under attack by the Israeli government and its supporters for labeling her latest work a Palestinian production. “The moment you say Palestinian, though, you become the enemy,” she told The Electronic Intifada.
Movies are a great way to learn about Palestine – and, more important, to educate family, friends, and neighbors. Fortunately, there are scores of great films about the plight of the Palestinians and its historical roots – if the quality and quantity of documentaries on the situation determined the outcome, the Palestinians would have won a substantial measure of justice long ago. And in the Internet age most of these films are available at the click of a mouse, for free or at nominal cost.