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Other Israel Film Festival to launch in NY

The First Annual OTHER ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL will take place in New York City, November 8-15, 2007.  The event will be held at the JCC in Manhattan, Symphony Space and Cinema Village.

20 percent of Israel's population is Arab. Muslim, Bedouin, Christian, and Druze from different ethnic, religious, cultural and social backgrounds are defined collectively as Arab Citizens of Israel.  Through a week-long festival of award-winning films, guest filmmakers, panel discussions, special gala events & receptions, photography exhibits, musical performances and much more, OTHER ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL will illuminate the lives of the Arab Citizens of Israel who are rarely seen outside the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"This festival will be unique - it is not about the conflict - it is not about taking sides - this festival is about people," states Festival Founder Carole Zabar. "Through the Festival, Arab Israelis who have long been a part of Israel's art and film scene will bring Israeli Arab perspectives and culture to an audience that has never heard this voice before. This is a unique opportunity to showcase the accomplishments of Israeli Arabs and for festival goers to meet Arab actors and directors as well as the Jewish Israelis with whom they work and colaborate with great success." 

The First Annual OTHER ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL will celebrate its Opening Night Gala on Thursday, November 8, 2007, with an unforgettable evening featuring great food, music, friends and film! Other Israel is proud to present the International Premiere of ON HOLD, directed by Rokaya Sabbah.

During the 2007 Jerusalem International Film Festival (July 5-14), the OTHER ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL participated in a juried competition to present the "Other Israel Award" to a film that through creative use of the medium furthers awareness and challenges conventions about the Arab citizens of Israel.  The Festival's Closing Night will be a special director's presentation of the 2007 Other Israel Award winner, Yusef Bilal's Crossing Borders.



Arab Labor  (US Premiere) - In this new satire TV series written by Sayed Kashua, Amjad is a thirty year-old Arab Israeli journalist, married to Bushara, a social worker and father to Maya. In his attempt to make it to the top, he is going through a process of "Israelization", often mocked by his family and not accepted by the majority he is trying to belong to.


Atash (Thirst) - A family of five, their two goats and donkey live in the middle of nowhere far from their village home. They earn a meager living by producing & selling charcoal, made from the surrounding trees. One day the father decides to provide running water for the family by illegally diverting water onto their land. The three women recoil from the idea but the teenage son obeys submissively anything to be allowed to continue attending school. The water surging through the pipe parallels the surging resentment the family feels towards the father. He brought them to this place against their will and they know the reason they left their home is also the reason they can never return, but the newly free-flowing water on their land re-awakens the instinctive desire for freedom they have been repressing all these years.


Behind the Walls - In Israel's Central Prison, the security officer is corrupt, supplying drugs and stirring the hatred between Jewish and Arab prisoners to his advantage. Uri, in for 12 years for armed robbery, and Issan, in for 50 years for PLO violence, command the respect of their cells. When the Arabs are framed for the murder of a Jewish prisoner and a young inmate commits suicide rather than lie about what happened, Uri and Issan form an unlikely partnership.  1984 Oscar® Nominee-Best Foreign Film, Winner of Fipresci Prize-Venice International Film Festival.

Crossing Borders - The film follows Aisha Sidawee and Umima Abu Ras, two Arab women in Israel joining "Ta'ayush", a feminist movement, and documents them through a period filled with tension and conflicts, both personal and social ones.  Winner of the Other Israel Award at the 2007 Jerusalem Film Festival.

Empathy - The film composed of multiple stories composed together and arranged in reverse chronological order to enable the viewer to consider events that took place previously with a fresh perspective.

The Film Class - Rahat is by no means an ordinary place. It is afflicted with pessimism, unemployment, poverty and violence. It is partially populated by the Black Bedouins who were brought to the Negev, and the Middle East at large, as slaves. Kidnapped in Africa by Arab slave traders, they were auctioned-off in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Zanzibar. Until 50 years ago, the Black Bedouins were enslaved by the White ones. When the director of an adult women's film class first started working with the group, he had no knowledge of it. The women never mentioned the issue he found increasingly intriguing. Only after about 18 months of working and making short films together, did he work up the nerve to suggest that they make a film of their history. Suddenly, a small and modest course in filmmaking became a place in which a great taboo comes into the open. The women still suffering discrimination to this day unveil a story which few have spoken of.

First Lesson in Peace - explores the Jewish-Arab relations through the eyes of a six year old girl, the director's daughter, when she starts school at the mixed Arab-Jewish primary school - Neveh Shalom -The Oasis of Peace. The film follows the clashes and encounters she goes through during her first year in school and her first year in the reality of the Middle East.

Maktub - Ataf, a Druze Israeli police officer is assigned to investigate a murder case. During the investigation he experiences strange flashes, which endanger his life and his relationship with his Jewish Israeli girl friend Michal; the police officer in charge of youth cases in his unit. These flashes lead him to meaningful understandings concerning one of the fundamental beliefs of the Druze society - reincarnation, drawing him closer to his people, who will not tolerate the idea of him marrying anyone but a Druze, but also reinforcing his great love to Michal.  

No Longer Achmed (US Premiere) - Achmed Hamdoon, a young Arab Bedouin, was raised in the family tin hut, a few meters away from the locked gate of Kibbutz "Lotem" in West Galilee, Northern Israel. Having longed for the kibbutz life most of his youth, he finally pulls out and moves to "Lotem", changing his name to the typically Israeli name Meidan Sade. The clan is outraged and sees him as a "traitor". But Meidan, no longer Achmed, feels he cannot access better opportunities in the Israeli society as a Bedouin. Indeed, he becomes "the first Hamdoon" to carry ammunition while guarding the Kibbutz, completes his high school degree, and finds a new Jewish "cultural" mother. The price, however, is high. Meidan is lonely, unable to find a Jewish girl who will accept him as he is, nor a Bedouin girl who will not frown on his extreme crossing of ways.

On Hold (International Premiere) - deals with the decision of an Arab Israeli couple to leave Israel and move to Spain. The film focuses on the preparations for the move, as well as on all the related mental and moral questions - Should they stay in a country that even though was the home of their ancestors is defined as the home of the Jewish people? Should they stay and fight for their rights or should they follow their dreams and go on a journey looking for another "promised land"? This journey leads them to look into their surroundings: her Muslim family, his Christian family, and their friends, Jews and Arabs, just to realize they are not alone in this dilemma. 

Pickles, Inc. - In the Arab Israeli village of Tamra, eight widows decide to challenge convention by starting up a business venture -- the Azka Pickle Cooperative -- seeking financial independence for themselves and their children. With little formal education or work experience outside the home, the women face numerous hurdles as the business struggles to expand to stores throughout Israel -- while their personal lives reflect the joys and sadness of family weddings, bereavement, and loneliness.

Ringo & Taher - Taher, a little boy from Jaffa has a small dream, which is to own a dog. One day, that dream comes true in the form of a little puppy he finds in the street and names Ringo. But in Taher's world, raising a dog is unacceptable, and so he decides to raise the puppy on his own, out of his strict father's reach.

Roads (US Premiere) - 13 year old Ismail who lives in a drug infested neighborhood in Lud looks for a way out of there for him and his younger brother. Daniel, an ex-soldier with post traumatic stress disorder, buys drugs from Ismail for his own personal escape attempt. There, in the lowest place in Israeli society, they might find their way out in each other.

Shadia - A spirited Israeli-Arab girl challenges the traditional Muslim lifestyle planned for her by fighting to become a World Karate Champion.  Shadya's conflict as an "Israeli-Arab" and as an "Arab-Woman" emerges when she meets the Palestinian karate team and when she marries at the peak of her career.

Since You Left - In his autobiographical essay, Arab-Israeli actor/director Mohammad Bakri returns to the grave of his former mentor, the writer and communist Emile Habibi, and attempts - using archive footage, personal films, and documentary materials - to account for the personal and political transformations that have occurred in Israel as well as within his own thinking since the author's death.

Syrian Bride - A Druze woman from Golan Heights, Israel is engaged to marry a Syrian television star whom she has never met. If she moves to Syria, however, she will never be able to return to her home.

Trumpet in the Wadi - Based on the novel by Sami Michael, Trumpet in the Wadi is a sensitive love story between two outsiders in Israeli society. Huda, a Christian Arab woman from Haifa, is drawn to her upstairs neighbor Alex, a new Jewish immigrant from Russia.

Special Presentations:

* WORKING TOGETHER - Arab and Jewish filmmakers in an open discussion about their experiences working together. Moderated by Richard Pena, Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center and Associate Professor of film at Columbia University.

* ARAB ISRAELI 101 - From the commentator of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Middle East" (Mitchell G. Bard), comes Arab-Israeli 101. Join writer / Middle East specialist Jeff Helmreich to learn everything you wanted to know about Arab Israelis and were afraid to ask.

* CITY OF ORANGES - Through the stories of six families - three Arab and three Jewish - City of Oranges illuminates the underlying complexity of modern Israel. Join Symphony Space Artistic Director Isaiah Scheffer and author Adam LeBor in conversation about his NY Times-editor's-choice book.

* UNRECOGNIZED - A fascinating slide show presentation by the artist Tal Adler, a photographer, teacher and social-political activist who comes face to face with the issue of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and their inhabitants.

* SLING SHOT HIP HOP with DAM - A unique evening comprised of live performance of the first and leading Arab Israeli rap group DAM (Da Arabian MC's - Suhell Nafar, Tamer Nafar & Mahmoud Jreri), excerpts from the new film Sling Shot Hip Hop, documenting the Arab hip-hop scene presented by director Jackie Salloum, and discussion with DAM about the role their music plays within their social, political and personal lives.

* Beyond the Wall: KIDS WITH CAMERAS - Jerusalem.  Twenty-four Jewish and Arab children were given cameras and photography lessons and sent out to photograph Jerusalem's old city though their own perspectives. The results are remarkable. See Jerusalem from the vantage points of kids who live in the same city, but whose worlds are far apart.

Additional Panels and discussions:

* Q&A with actor / director Mohammad Bakri following "Behind the Walls" and Since You Left.

* Q&A with producer Nitza Gonen following Pickles.

* Q&A with director Tawfik Abu Wael following Atash.

* Q&A with director Jony Arbid follwing Ringo & Taher.

* Q&A with director Yusef Bilal following Crossing Borders.

* Q&A witt director Rokaya Sabbah following On Hold.

* Panel discussion on Bedouin Society in Israel following The Film Class with director Uri Rosenwaks, Vivian Silver, Executive Director of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPED, a not for profit institution for social and economic development in Israel, the Middle East region, and in developing countries around the world); and Amal Elsana-Alh'jooj, director of AJEEC - the Arab Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, a division of NISPED.

* Panel discussion on Educating for Co-existence following First Lesson in Peace.  Panelists and moderator TBA.

* Panel discussion on Identity of Arab Israelis following No Longer Achmed, with director David Deri and additional panelists.

* Discussion on Women in Arab Israeli Society following Shadya with feminist  journalist & filmmaker Lilly Rivlin, and Mona Eltahawy, an award-winning New York-based journalist and commentator and an international lecturer on Arab and Muslim issues.


Guest Filmmakers:

Mohammad Bakri (actor-BehindTheWalls, director-SinceYouLeft).

Mohammad Bakri was born in the Arab village of Bi'ina in the Galilee in 1953. Bakri began his professional acting career in plays in several theaters in Israel and the West Bank notably the Habima National Theatre in Tel-Aviv, the Haifa Theater and al-Kasaba Theater in Ramallah. After a few years of acting in Israeli film, Bakri began to act in international films in nations such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada. Bakri also directed two documentary films including the controversial Jenin, Jenin and most recently the autobiographical documentary Since You Left.


Tawfik Abu Wael (director-Atash)

Tawfik Abu Wael was born in the Arab town of Um El-Fahim in Israel, in 1976. He graduated from Tel Aviv University, where he studied film directing, and worked in the film archive from 1996 to 1998. He taught drama at the Haan Arafe School in Jaffa from 1997 to 1999. His previous works include the shorts Bread (1997), Hashish and the Moon (1997), and Diary of a Male Whore (2000), and the documentary Waiting for Sallah El-Din (2001). Atash is his first feature film; it won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2004 Cannes Internationa Film Festival.

Uri Rosenwaks (director - The Film Class)

Born in the southern city of Be'er Sheva, Uri Rosenwaks has been writing, producing, and directing documentary films and specials for Israeli TV for the past ten years.  The Film Class is his most recent documentary and has been presented in festivals throughout the world, winning both audience and critic alacclaim.

Yussef Bilal (director - Crossing Borders)

Born in the town of Dabbourieh in 1979. After graduating Communication & Cinema studies at Emek Ha'Yarden division of Ben Gurion University in 2002, Bilal worked as a correspondent of Ma'ariv, one of Israel's leading daily newspapers, as well as coordinated and supervised numerous social and educational film projects. Yusef Bilal's first full-length documentary film Crossing Borders (2007) was named Best Documentary in The Spirit of Freedom category of the 2007 Jerusalem International Film Festival and is the winner of the OTHER ISRAEL AWARD.


Jackie Salloum (director - Sling Shot Hip-Hop)

Born and raised in suburban Michigan, Salloum began her current project, Slingshot Hip Hop, a feature-length documentary chronicling the lives of Palestinian rappers in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel, in the summer of 2003. During this same period, she completed "Planet of the Arabs", a video art critique of Hollywood's representation of Arabs and Muslims that went on to garner her the "Best Editor" award at the Cinematexas film festival and a 2005 Sundance Film Festival official selection. The anxiously anticipated Slingshot Hip Hop, now in post-production, has already brought the voices of her young subjects to concert audiences in Amsterdam, Ireland, New York City, and San Francisco and to the tens of thousands of people who have watched the trailer on-line.

Jony Arbid (director/writer - Ringo & Taher)

Jony Arbid is a well known actor who has appeared in numerous award winning films. Among them The Little Drummer Girl, The Flying Camel, Fictive Marriage, Final Cup, Café Stories, and Dark Night. Throughout his career as an actor, Arbid also participated in many TV series ("101", "Shalva", "Zinzana", "Deep Blue") and theater performances (Chan Theatre, Akko Theater Festival, Fringe Theatre, The Jaffa Arab-Jewish theater). In 2003 he directed "Crazy Night" (i.e. "Layla Majnun") in the Jaffa Arab-Jewish Theater. Ringo & Taher is his first feature as a director.

David Deri (director - No Longer Achmed)

Director and scriptwriter, graduate of the Sapir College Film & TV school in the Israeli Negev.  Among his award winning films are Until Tomorrow Comes starring Yael Abecassis, nominated for five Israeli Film Academy Awards, winning Best Drama and Best Actress categories, and Say Amen, an autobiographic documentary named one of the best five documentaries of the year 2005 by Israeli Film Academy. 

Rokaya Sabbah (director - OnHold)

Born in 1982 in the Arab village of Tur`an, Israel, Graduated form "Camera Obscura" School of Arts in Tel-Aviv, majoring in directing and screenplay writing. In 2004 directed the Making of Paradise Now and recently finished directing a 52 episode documentary of On Hold supported by The New Israeli Film Fund & The Second Authority For TV & Radio. She is currently working on her first feature film Till The Moon Sets, developed with the support of The Israeli Film Fund.

Nitza Gonen (producer - Pickles)

Gonen has directed and produced a variety of television and cinematic projects, focusing on drama films and innovative documentaries, as well as concerts and operas events. Her films deal with human and social issues.


Among the groups supporting this unique Israeli Arab festival are numerous US based Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.  These predominantly Jewish organizations are supporting this non-Jewish event as they share the common goal of preserving the welfare of Israel while sustaining a peaceful existence and the long-term stability of the democratic Jewish state. Israel's Declaration of Independence promises equality for all its citizens, economically, educationally and socially - Jews and Arabs alike. Ultimately, empowering Israeli Arab citizens to become more involved in the process that affects their daily lives as well as educate the American Jewish community on majority-minority relations in Israel. This support is a collective effort to promote co-existence between Arabs and Jews. And what better tool than the all encompassing medium of film to change perception, evoke emotion and unite all the people of Israel.

Supporting Organizations:

UJA-Federation of NY; NYU-Taub Center for Israel Studies; Columbia University-Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Culture; Ort America; American Israel Friendship League; Hashomer Hatzair; Givat Haviva; Yad b'Yad-Hand in Hand; New Israel Fund; The Abraham Fund Initiatives; Ford Foundation Israel Fund; Isaac and Ishmael; Search For Common Ground; JCP-Jewish Community Project; Jerusalem Foundation; Ameinu; Meretz USA; Ma'ayan; Generation R.

Tickets and information: General Admission: $11 / $7 for JCC and Symphony Space members; Festival Pass: $35 (Good for five general admissions. Must be exchanged at Box Office 30 minutes prior to show time. Special events excluded).  Special Events Admission:  Opening Night Gala: $35; Closing Night Reception: $25; Sling Shot Hip-Hop with DAM: $20; Unrecognized / City of Oranges: $11 / $7 for JCC and Symphony Space members.  Tickets available starting October 8th online - file://sapserver/Springer%20PR/OTHER%20ISRAEL%20FILM%20FESTIVAL/, or call 646.505.5708, or at the screening locations - The JCC in Manhattan, Symphony Space, Cinema Village.

For more information on the OTHER ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL, please visit the web site at

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OTHER ISRAEL Film Festival

The JCC in Manhattan is proud to present the second annual Other Israel Film Festival, focusing on the lives and experiences of Arab citizens of Israel.

Founded in 2007, Other Israel Film Festival uses film to foster social awareness and cultural understanding. The Festival presents dramatic and documentary features and shorts, as well as engaging panels about history, culture, and identity of Arab citizens of Israel, who make up twenty percent of Israel’s population. Our mission is to promote awareness and appreciation of the diversity of the state of Israel, provide a dynamic and inclusive forum for exploration of and dialogue about the Arab experience in Israel, and encourage cinematic expression and creativity dealing with these themes.

To learn more about Other Israel Film Festival, visit:


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