Recently a friend asked my opinion about the 2014 Palestinian Oscar-candidate movie “Omar”. Usually I don’t retain for too long the details from the films I watch, and I can watch them again two or three times until I start to recognize the story – which in some cases can be an advantage. But with this film it was different. Exhibited at a festival, it was on my favorites list, as is everything regarding to Middle East. After trying to watch it a couple of times with no success, I went to the cinemateque alone, at an improbable time in late afternoon in the middle of the week.
Used to discussions about the conflict and all the issues between Israelis and Palestinians, and Jews and Arabs, I love to learn new details about the culture and life of “the other”. In a daily exercise I try to understand points of view different from my own, with a strong belief that we are talking about multiple angles of perception of the same story. So I was there with the same peace activist’s open heart, as always, excited to know a new Palestinian production.
The film started and in the first scenes an Israeli soldier characterized as the bad guy with no human values and a twist of stupidity, whose only goal was to destroy Palestinian people’s life, awakened inside me a reactive conclusion: “here they come again, with the same propaganda as always!” The film continued and I found myself dealing with feelings I didn’t expect – internally defending “my side” and blaming “the other” for not recognizing our desire for peace made me get in touch with frustration, sadness, and even anger. “Wait a minute! Anger? How can a dedicated peace activist feel it?” Doubting on my own feelings, I experienced infinite shades of sensations.
I left the cinema angry and praying to not to meet anyone I knew, with the certainty that it wasn’t a good moment for social encounters, which, for their and my good luck, didn’t happen. I decided to walk the quite long way home, trying to digest those undesirable feelings. In a certain way I succeeded, and I didn’t think about the film anymore, until people started to talk about it because of its Oscar nomination.
Suddenly I saw myself recommending that very good film, which made me recognize the effects of a good piece of art. It made me question my positions, and touched my internal shadows. The fact that one desires and works for peace doesn’t prevent him or her from getting into a deep process. When someone believes in peace, it means that new doors are opened, and not that the end of the path was reached. Maybe there is no end, just a long way together facing “the other” in ourselves and sometimes “the same” in “the other”. Accepting and understanding our own contradictions opens the possibility to not see the “other” as a stranger, but as a companion in a long journey.
YaLa Young Leaders