Yesterday I went to Andareen pub for Monday night film night with Megan and Sarah, my American friends who volunteer with the Lutheran Church in Ramallah and Beit Hanina.
Tonight's film was BUDRUS, a movie I've been meaning to see for a long time, but never got around to. Here's the reason why...I've been to a lot of demonstrations so I figured I knew the whole movie, people march to their land, army shoots at them, this village wins their land back. I knew the film had been screened in Al Walaja village in Bethlehem, which is also in the direct path of the wall, and people were so inspired by the success of non-violent resistance in Budrus. So I was happy to learn that Budrus was the film, but I personally wasn't expecting to learn much from it.
The film is about a village that was threatened by the Israeli separation barrier to be cut off from its olive trees. The people of Budrus demonstrated peacefully for almost a year and in the end, the route of the wall was changed. In response to the question, "where is the Palestinian Gandhi?" Just Vision put together a film following the village's resistance. They did all the interviews and editing themselves, but all of the footage of the struggle was collected from activists and reporters. The stuff they collected....wow. It speaks to the sheer amount of footage that was taken, that you feel like you're a fly on the shoulder of every villager and every soldier.
Now I understand the hype. This film is incredible. I've seen footage from Bil'in and Nabi Saleh, but not packaged like this. They focused on the main players, the organizer of the demonstrations, remarkably the women (who participated intensely and spoke on camera, like so many Muslim women would not do) We had the good fortune of having one of the filmmakers present at the event, so she was able to explain the project and answer follow-up questions.
The army looks bad. It looks really bad. You start to see the nitty gritty when the Israeli activists show up and the soldiers say they can't use force against them. Don't worry, we're only gassing the villagers, one of them said. That was one of the moments where people in the pub couldn't help but gasp or click their tongues, even though I doubt many of them were suprised. It was very clear in this film that the villagers were the good guys, and the soldiers were the bad guys. The words echoed in my head from Israelis I'd heard saying in the last week, "the occupation is evil, it is destroying the fabric of our society and the Jewish people." Then again, I know Israelis who would say the occupation is a necessary evil. I don't know how they would respond to this film. I don't think the soldiers are evil people, but I've had more than a few moments here where the occupation is a movie and there are bad guys, classic movie bad guys. I don't like this feeling, but that's the way I feel.
There were funny moments too, with the kids, and when the village women call out to the one female soldier and tell her she should leave the army and come and marry one of their sons and they'll give her sheep...strangely enough the filmmaker told us that this soldier, who was interviewed extensively for the film (and kinda looks like Idina Menzel), had ordered copies for her family and friends because she thought it was a good picture of how she was doing her job well. Everyone scratched their heads at that one. At least it was interesting hearing her testimony.
I drank two pints of Taybeh and between the four of us (we'd befriended a British journalist named Ruth), we probably downed two dozens plates of popcorn and dishes of peanuts and carrots. It's not even a joke anymore, just a fact of life.
At one point during the film, when the Israeli activists and internationals started marching with the villagers, for half a second I saw a young man scrambling down some rocks wearing a grey WHITMAN COLLEGE t-shirt and I started flailing my arms around like "what?!" and had to explain to the table....that's my school! Who is this Whittie in Budrus?? I was beaming for the rest of the night.
But it was draining, like always, watching a movie about the "situation." The credits roll and you're like, "huh...I'm still here," like a dream you can't wake up from. The filmmaker told us that the people of Budrus were still demonstrating, because there were still reasons to...the army installing cameras to watch the village, leaving sirens on throughout the night...they're still being punished.
I glanced over at the man I'd said hello to before the film started. His name was Hatam and he was a web designer at the company that made my business cards and fliers for the guest house. He was going to finish the Al Aqaba website. I thought, now that Al Aqaba is starting to have Friday demonstrations, I need to do two things: I need to screen Budrus in the village, and I need to get this website finished STAT, if anything like what happened to Budrus would ever happen to Al Aqaba.
Anyways, it's an incredible film, I highly recommend it.