Witness Palestine Film Series Press Release 2013

WPFS 2013 flier

About the Witness Palestine Film Series

The Witness Palestine Film Series grew from the experiences of individuals in the Rochester area who traveled to the Middle East and were moved by what they saw and heard. The films being screened this year were selected from over 50 documentaries and narrative films. These are compelling films which illustrate the realities on the ground in both the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.

A group of diverse panelists, most with firsthand experience of the conflict, will lead discussions after each screening.

Witness Palestine Film Series – Schedule for 2013

Sunday, September 8: 5 Broken Cameras [2012 Academy Award Nominee]

Monday, September 9:  The Law in These Parts

Sunday, September 15:  Jerusalem: The East Side Story

Sunday, September 15:  Follow the Money

Monday, September 16:  The People and the Olive

Sunday, September 22:  Two-Sided Story

Monday, September 23: Going Against the Grain [at St. John Fisher College]

More about the Films

5 Broken Cameras – September 8 at 2:00 pm

The documentary is a deeply personal, first-hand account of life and non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village located next to Israeli settlements (Google map). Filmed by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, Gibreel, the film was co-directed by Burnat and Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker.

Structured in chapters around the destruction of each one of Burnat’s five cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village upheaval. As the years pass in front of the camera, we witness Gibreel grow from a newborn baby into a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him with the astute powers of perception that only children possess. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost in this cinematic diary and unparalleled record of life in the West Bank.

The Law in These Parts – September 9 at 6:45 pm

What is legal and what is just? The wide gap between the two is explored meticulously by this Israeli investigation of the legal structure created after the 1967 Six Days War, specifically to treat the West Bank and Gaza Strip as occupied territories.

Speaking with some of Israel’s most respected lawyers and judges – men who helped to craft and later interpret these laws – filmmaker Ra’anan Alexandrowicz asks tough, pointed questions and gets even tougher answers. He asks his subjects to consider the consequences of their actions in a highly politicized environment. This documentary takes the position that unjust laws create unjust realities. Laws that everyone admits are not perfect but are the best that can be done under difficult circumstances may result in tragedy for everyone: both the judges and the judged.

Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the Sundance and Jerusalem Film Festivals.

Jerusalem … The East Side Story – September 15 at 2:00 pm

“When the stones of Jerusalem become more holy than its people, doesn’t it lose its holiness?” It’s a question well worth reflecting upon.

Jerusalem…The East Side Story is an informative film that wrestles with this very question as it reveals the policies that aim to Judaize the city and control Palestinian demographic growth. The resulting collective punishment is part of a larger scheme to pressure Palestinians into submission or flight.

This documentary squeezes nearly one hundred years of history into an hour or so of cinema. It mainly exposes the past forty years of Israeli military occupation policies in East Jerusalem and their devastating impact on the city and its peoples. Before taking on each issue, historical context is presented through archival footage: from the United Nations hall (1947) with the General Assembly Resolution 181 to partition Palestine; the battles in Jerusalem (1967), which ended with Israel militarily occupying all of East Jerusalem; and Palestinian refugees streaming over the border to Jordan in order to flee the fighting.

The intention of the documentary is to bring the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence to light. Director Mohammed Alatar hopes and prays that people will realize today’s bitter reality in Jerusalem and do what it takes to bring peace to this troubled city.


Follow the Money (Short) – September 15 at 3:00 pm

In this Foreign Correspondent report from the Australian Broadcasting Company, multiple sides of the boycott question are introduced and explored. As reporter Eric Campbell states,

“Thirty years ago the world was boycotting South Africa to end apartheid. Today, there’s a growing push to boycott Israel to end the occupation. It’s a controversial movement that often likens democratic Israel to an apartheid regime, but with the peace process at a standstill, Palestinians are looking at new ways to fight.”

Listen to different sides of the issue as Campbell interviews Palestinian activist Cairo Arafat, Sodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum, and others.

Hear from Knesset member Alex Miller about an Israeli law which bans Israelis from supporting any boycotts, and listen to Knesset member Ahmad Tibi who openly challenges the same law by supporting a boycott of products made in West Bank settlements.

The People and the Olive – September 16 at 6:45 pm

What do olive trees mean to Palestinian farmers? Olives are their livelihood, their source of sustenance and the way they root themselves, historically and spiritually, to the land. But Palestinians are denied access to nearly 30 percent of their beloved olive trees in the West Bank as they struggle to live under Israeli military occupation. How do they persevere? And what should the international community understand about Palestinian olive farmers, who love their land and harvest it every season to feed their families — just as farmers across the world do?

In response, filmmaker Aaron Dennis and journalist Jacob Wheeler created an inspiring film to highlight the plight of the Palestinians. Together, they documented The Run Across Palestine in February 2012, an effort by six Americans to run 129 miles in five days across the West Bank, in order to raise awareness about the struggles of Palestinian fair trade olive farmers, and replant uprooted olive trees. The run transcended the daily news stories and addressed the visible and hidden impacts from the loss of traditional farmlands for the individual farmers and their families, and bridged cultures along the way.

“They planted so we ate. Now we plant so they eat. Past generations planted these trees that we’re eating from and are supporting our lives, and we plant trees for our future generations to support their lives.”
— Palestine Fair Trade Association founder Nasser Abufarha

Two-Sided Story – September 22 at 2:00 pm

The film follows an encounter group of 27 Palestinians and Israelis – bereaved families, Orthodox Jews and religious Muslims, settlers, ex-soldiers in the Israeli army, ex security prisoners, kibbutz members, second generation holocaust survivors, non-violent activists, and more.

Outside the room, participants may be considered enemies. Inside the room, participants are asked to not try to convince each other and to offer an insight into their inner world. They share their personal experiences along with historical and political interpretation to key events in the conflict: The Nakba, the Holocaust, Occupation, bereavement, suicide bombing, Israeli army, the separation wall, etc.

Not only does the viewer have the opportunity to listen and understand, but the viewer comes along for the ride as participants bring each other into their homes and local neighborhoods as they work to overcome their differences with each other.

Will their differences remain irreconcilable, or will they begin to accept the reality that their colleagues express?

Going Against the Grain – September 23 at 12:30 pm [St. John Fisher College] [free]

This documentary focuses on writer and journalist Gideon Levy, someone who evokes strong emotions from fellow Israelis. He has made weekly visits, over the past three decades, to the occupied Palestinian territories, describing what he sees – plainly and without propaganda. For some Israelis, he is seen as a brave disseminator of the truth. But many others condemn him as a propagandist for Hamas. And his columns for the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper have made him, arguably, one of the most hated men in Israel.

“When I joined Haaretz newspaper, I started to visit the occupied territories,” Levy says. “I immediately realized this was what I wanted to do; to understand the brutality and inhumanity of the Israeli occupation.”

“I figured out three things. First, this was the biggest drama facing the state of Israel. Second, this story was not being covered by the Israeli media. And third, this was going to be my life mission – to report about the Israeli occupation to Israeli readers who did not want to know what was really happening there.”

Over the years, Levy’s stories have shed light on the realities Palestinians face on a daily basis.

This Al Jazeera World Report, “Going Against the Grain”, follows Levy on one of his assignments in Hebron, and meets some of the ordinary Palestinians whose lives he has described in his regular column for Haaretz.


The organizing committee includes activists involved in interfaith dialogue and international solidarity work as well as local filmmakers.  Witness Palestine originated from Christians Witnessing for Palestine, an informal group with members from several Rochester, NY churches.

More Information

Tickets: $8

For more information on the Witness Palestine Film Series please visit:

www.WitnessPalestineRochester.org  or Witness Palestine (Rochester) on Facebook

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