|Directed by:||Ilan Ziv||Rating:||TV-14|
|Release Date:||1994||Running Time:||101 mins|
|Language:||Hebrew, Arabic, English||Genre:||Documentary|
|More Info:||Film homepage||Category:||Israel|
The first joint Israeli-Palestinian co-production, On the Edge of Peace is a uniquely varied portrait of an extremely tumultuous year for both sides. From the signing of the Oslo Accords to Yasser Arafat’s return to Gaza in 1994, three Palestinians and three Israelis from different walks of life are sent out with camcorders to document their own lives in intimate video diaries.
“All those peace talks are just empty words floating in the air,” says Mahmoud Kalabani as he watches his mother Huda feed a swarm of pigeons in the West Bank town of Jericho. “We must talk about people’s lives, whether they’re directly involved or not.”
With the space of 14 years and the Second Intifada now separating us from the events depicted in the film, this collaborative effort between director Ilan Ziv and co-producers Amit Breuer and Daoud Kuttab still stands up as an insightful look at a critical moment in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Juxtaposing media coverage of watershed events with the localized views of the diarists, On the Edge of Peace powerfully shows the varied effects of politics on individuals’ lives. In refugee camps, kibbutz settlements and cities, we hear a variety of personal and emotional takes on life under the often-violent shadow of the peace process.
The emotional resonance of this combined personal-political style is never more effective than in the depiction of February 25th, 1994 — the day of the Baruch Goldstein massacre. At 3:30 a.m., we see a lone man walking the darkened streets of Gaza’s Rafah refugee camp reminding people of the daily Ramadan fast. At 5:00 a.m., we are in pre-dawn Hebron, listening to the call to prayer. At 6:30 we are surrounded by the eerie morning mist which shrouds Kibbutz Ein Dor. Then we see the morning news and witness the initial reports of Goldstein’s killing of Arab worshippers in a Hebron cave mosque.
The diary reactions to this event and others provide for a subtle but pointed critique of how affluence and a sense of security, or its lack, can drastically affect one’s worldview, especially among highly-impressionable youth who are still developing their own opinions.
In Rafah, we see young Nael Masran march around in military fatigues, don a kafiya, brandish a slingshot shaped like an AK-47 and robotically spout anti-Israel propaganda to his grammar school classmates. One of them, Mahmoud Aqel, easily draws a blackboard map of Europe from memory.
Meanwhile, in West Jerusalem, high school senior Adam Shuv (nervous about his upcoming induction into the IDF) admonishes his friend for not knowing how to find Gaza on a map. “You need to know basic information,” Shuv says, barely containing his frustration at the oblivious and apathetic attitudes of his peers. When one of them tells the diarist to stop being “so uptight” and playfully jostles his camera, Shuv’s emotions boil over and he abruptly cuts off his entry, turning the screen into an explosion of white electric snow.
Shuv seems an exception amongst Israeli young people who seem to take their relative wealth and security for granted. In contrast, young Palestinians appear wholeheartedly invested in the outcome of world events, feeling acutely that their futures hang in the balance of political machinations.
Mostly, though, the Israeli diaries depict a sense of profound confusion. Israeli David Kapach is all too aware of both geography and politics as he drives through the streets of Ramallah, behind the wheel of a car dented by countless thrown rocks, to get to his home in the Jewish settlement of Ofra. By his side, Kapach’s daughter asks if the daily journey scares him. At first he waxes philosophical, saying, “Happy is he who is always afraid … The trick is to overcome your fear.” However, when it comes to the prospect of peace he firmly declares his opposition to giving over any Israeli lands to Palestinian rule because, he says, “I’m afraid of being stoned, or murdered, or whatever.” This contradictory opinion seems almost logical when cast in the light of a year where hopes for a lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord were strained by recurrent violence that escalated to an eventual bloody breaking point.
While the film accentuates the tragedy of this lost opportunity for peace, it also reminds the viewer of the deadly stakes faced by people, both Jewish and Arab, who live in a land without compromise.