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Has the new movie, “Little Town of Bethlehem” lost the plot?

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke at the UN’s General Assembly on Monday (September 20, 2010) saying, “History is written in blood. Most wars have been waged over territory. Today, creativity and knowledge have taken the place of land as the main source of wealth.

Israeli President Shimon Peres speaking at the UN

“Land can be captured, not knowledge. Knowledge is global, knows no boundaries, it cannot be captured by military force. Despite this, terrorists that respect no law are causing violence based on ideological differences, social gaps and jealousies.”

Peres continued with the hope that, “In this millennium, the world must free itself from bloodshed, discrimination, hunger and disease and sickness.”

Peres also told the assembly that Israel was interested in immediately starting direct negotiations with Syria.

BNO News then reported that United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today (Monday) met with Peres and discussed the progress on the recently launched Middle East direct peace talks.

Their story said that the Secretary-General stressed that negotiations are the only way to resolve all final status issues and achieve peace in the Middle East region. The meeting took place after the UN General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Ban and Peres also talked of the need to maintain calm on the ground and to create an appropriate environment for successful negotiations. The UN head chief also remarked the importance of extending and expanding Israel’s settlement freeze,” said the BNO News story.

Direct peace negotiations were launched earlier this month by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, as they came together in Washington D.C. under United States watch.

Ban repeated his condemnation of the rocket attacks on Israel as security concerns emanating from Gaza were also discussed. The Secretary-General also discussed the positive impact of the change of policy towards Gaza and hoped that it would be sustained and further expanded.

On Tuesday, Ban will host a meeting with the Quartet principals, the Middle East diplomatic group conformed by the UN, the United States, the European Union and Russia. The Quartet’s support is fundamental to helping the parties achieve a final agreement within a year.

“The Secretary-General discussed the Israel-Palestine situation, in separate meetings, with King Abdullah of Jordan and French President Nicolas Sarkozy,” said the BNO story.

Poster of the film

As the peace negotiations are now ongoing, a new documentary movie called “Little Town of Bethlehem” from EthnoGraphic Media (EGM) about the Middle East conflict releases in October.

The film addresses the growing nonviolence movement in Palestine and Israel and tells the story of three courageous men from opposite sides of the conflict who, at great personal cost, have already discovered the key to a nonviolent resolution to this seemingly intractable conflict.

Produced by Mart Green, directed by Jim Hanon, and filmed on location in the West Bank, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, “Little Town of Bethlehem” brings awareness to a growing nonviolent movement in the Middle East that rarely, if ever, makes international headlines.

On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, EGM will launch its international grassroots campus screening campaign for “Little Town of Bethlehem.” At nine of these screenings faculty experts will join the film’s three protagonists, director, and producer in discussions around nonviolent solutions to the ongoing conflict. Beyond that, more than 150 colleges and universities in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Palestine, Israel, India as well as the EU have committed to campus screenings beginning in late September.

The protagonists are Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian whose grandfather was killed in Jerusalem in 1948. Today he is the executive director of Holy Land Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes Palestinian independence through peaceful means. Yonatan Shapira is an Israeli Jew whose grandparents were Zionist settlers who witnessed the birth of the Israeli nation. Today he is an outspoken advocate for the nonviolent peace movement, both in his homeland and abroad. Ahmad Al’ Azzeh is a Palestinian Muslim who has lived his entire life in the Azzeh refugee camp in Bethlehem. Today, Ahmad heads the nonviolence program at Holy Land Trust, where he trains others in the methods of peaceful activism.

“Little Town of Bethlehem” respectfully shares Sami’s, Yonatan’s, and Ahmad’s stories. With all three men referencing both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi during individual interviews, it is clear that their words, thoughts, and actions on nonviolence still profoundly impact today’s nonviolent movement. Little Town of Bethlehem is not just about educating and inspiring viewers, this film raises the question, “can the cycle of violence be broken?”

My personal view about the film

Dan Wooding pictured outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Having visited the Middle East many times and Bethlehem in particular, I requested an advance “screener” of the film as its content intrigued me.

Now I have just watched it and I have to say that I found it really difficult to follow. At times, the sound was so loud that I often missed what was being said and it was made worse by the overwhelming musical score which seem to overwhelm everything else.

I really wanted to enjoy the movie as this cause is close to my heart, but I thought the film-makers were trying to be too clever with their editing and this caused me to lose the plot and, by the end, I still didn’t really understand the point of the film.

I guess, the journalist in me, wanted an easy to follow story line, but instead I got totally swamped with noise, pictures, video and people talking who I often couldn’t understand. Sometimes, I couldn’t even figure out who was talking about what on the screen.

My conclusion is that this is a movie that could have really accomplished much more if it had not been so complex. I hope my views are wrong, however, as this film does need to be seen and I hope other viewers will find it easier to follow than I did.

You can view the trailer at: http://littletownofbethlehem.org

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