I am an Israeli film junkie. Even though I visit my beloved other country often, I also depend on and delight in getting extra fixes of Israel vicariously through its films.
When Meir Fenigstein’s Israel film festival comes to New York, for 25 years already, I am there. Each year, no matter how late the schedule is published, the theater always fills up. My theory is that we are a traumatized people, Israelis, and Jews, and that any time someone is retelling our story with imagination and courage, giving us a new narrative of familiar and often painful experiences, we want to hear and see what they have to say. We show up.
On Thursday night I wouldn’t have missed the opening of the 5th annual Other Israel Film Festival. This festival of films by and about Israel’s minority communities and especially the Arab citizens of Israel, is always provocative, sobering, bittersweetly entertaining–and if sometimes disheartening in its exposure of deeply felt injustices–always hope-inspiring because of the very fact of the festival’s existence.
The opening film this year, “Dolphin Boy,” a feature length documentary, is narrated in English (with subtitles for the Hebrew and Arabic) by an Israeli Jewish psychiatrist telling the story of his patient, a 17-year-old Palestinian Israeli young man, who is brought to him after a traumatic beating at the hands of other young men from his village avenging what they misconstrued as an “honor” violation. The film covers a period of four years of healing, and is a story about vulnerability and love, about relationships, between doctor and patient, father and son, boy and dolphins. This documentary like the arenas it portrays, medical treatment and nature, transcends politics.