Went to the JCC on the Upper West Side to see Junction 48, an Israeli Palestinian film co-written by Tamer Nafar and Oren Moverman and directed by Udi Aloni. At turns biting and sentimental, the movie is a biting and feminist social-melodrama centered on the struggle of Israeli-Palestinians from Lod for identity and belonging against Israeli Jewish state racism, poverty and dispossession, drugs and violence, and traditional patriarchy. Fiercely feminist, Tamer Nafar is a major figure on the Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian rap and hip-hop scene. He has confronted and provoked the rightwing and uber-conservative Minister of Culture Miri Regev for performing poems by Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. The movie’s story of vulnerable young people is carried by Nafar’s powerful soundtrack. Thinking about the film now in retrospect, what carries my attention are two things.
First is that the film was shown to a full house with no controversy at all at the Other Israel film festival at the JCC and the Q & A with the audience. The film and its creators were met with extreme warmth and perhaps even understanding. A teenager asked the first question about musical influences. Questions were raised and discussed about politics and gender. Without overt political polemics, without having to state or argue the obvious that the scene in Israel is marked by deep ethnocentrism and racism, clearly there is a critical mass of American Jews interested in a more open vision of Israel as a state of all its citizens and all its people, the synergistic and sympathetic understanding that Israel and Palestine are interlinked to the core.
Second is is the underscore of love and religion –the love between the two main protagonists, the religion of the imam, and a form of women-based Palestinian folk traditions and spirituality. In a post-movie Q & A, Nafar made brief mention of a new spirituality in leftwing Palestinian activist circles about which I would have like to have heard more. For biting social commentary, this video with Jowan Safadi captures the sense of chaos of life in Israel and the larger Middle East, the violence and the sectarianism crossing borders. Regarding religion and religiosity, this clip, God of Revolution, gives some indication of what this means –the desire to transcend narrow borders based on national, gender, religious, and sexual identities, a desire to return to the wilderness without technologies, the wish that God might make the world stop spinning (with such violence), a protest against human indifference.