Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
Seven Palestinian and Israeli children between the ages of 8 and 13, living in or near Jerusalem, speak with devastating transparency about their lives, the conflict and the likelihood of resolution. Several of them carry personal scars. All are thoroughly informed by the experience and the views of their parents. Their differing explanations of what is going on in Israel provide sobering insight into the complexity and intransigence of hostilities. Playing no favourites, the filmmakers have an obvious rapport with almost all of the children and become eager, as we do, to introduce their young friends to one another. In the film’s most remarkable and moving section such a meeting is achieved, and we watch as football and dinner momentarily override politics. The value of getting to know the enemy could hardly be more clearly demonstrated.
Promises is credited to three filmmakers, a non-partisan, non-profit peace project that made the film ‘out of deep concern, pain and passion for the situation in the Middle East’. Their labour of love is also a work of admirable intelligence and taste, which has been winning audience polls at festivals around the world. — BG
Promises provides deeply humanistic insight into the complexities of the Middle East conflict that political analysis or front-line news coverage often lacks… Well-crafted film was shot during a period of relative calm from 1997 to summer 2000, just prior to the outbreak of an intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in the fall of that year. An American raised in Jerusalem who speaks both Hebrew and Arabic, B.Z. Goldberg (who co-directed with Justine Shapiro and Carlos Bolado), acts as an onscreen interlocutor and later mediator with the subjects, most of whom live within a 20-minute radius in a fiercely divided city and have little direct knowledge of each other’s lives…
The principal subjects include Yarko and Daniel, two secular Israeli twins; Moishe, a right-wing Jew; angel-faced hard-line Hamas supporter Mahmoud; Shlomo, the ultra-orthodox son of an American rabbi; and Sanabel and Faraj, two Palestinians living in the Deheishe refugee camp.
While some of the kids are more flexible and open to dialogue than others, what registers most strongly at first is the way resentment, hatred, incomprehension, death, loss and the revenge instinct have been absorbed into their fiber. — David Rooney, Variety, 12/3/01