ACCESS Screening Gets Intense

Last night I had the honor to work with ACCESS an Arab-American organization based in Dearborn, MI. I was excited as it was my first screening with a primarily Arab audience. I expected an intense discussion regarding the aspects of the film which centered around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What I got was a firm reminder of how deeply rooted the pain, fear, humiliation, and desperate frustration is for so many connected to this conflict. “Intense” is polite summary of what followed. And although, to some who were not affiliated with ACCESS, I’m sure the “intensity” was off-putting – I was grateful. Not because I wanted to create conflict, nor did I want to disrespect anyone in any way (I believe my film is many things, but it is not disrespectful) but because this issue is so emotionally charged, yet so seldomly discussed outside of safe circles. The elder men who spoke the most passionately are people who remember the six-day war, who remember the ‘72 Olympics, who remember Shatila- Sabra have spent their life struggling with how to resolve this issue and have seen so much pain in the process. I did not expect to bring insight to them. However, there was a table of youth, who will soon inherit the responsibility of resolving this conflict, and they last night, at some level, they had to confront the question that I continued to ask, “So how do we bring peace?”

I did not, nor do not claim that my film provides answers. Nor do I claim that it explores every facet of “Hate”. But what it does articulate clearly, is that if we are unable to make an empathetic connection – due to our fear, cultural experience, and stereotype thinking then we will perpetuate the cycle that created such pain in the first place.

So now the dialogue will continue. Maybe not between me and the audience, but no one present last night will stop playing the events in their head for a while to come. At the end, some will conclude that my film is a “zionist propoganda piece” as one man articulated. Others will conclude that the behavior displayed last night was exactly what my film was trying to address. Regardless of the conclusion – I do hope that the dialogues which follow, will not be focused around who was right and who was wrong – but “How do we bring peace.”