“Doing my military service was the first real opportunity I got to know my country, enter the Palestinian Territory, and actually understand what was happening around me, around us, every day. We weren’t taught anything at school about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was as if it didn’t exist. So I decided to get to the roots of the situation and interviewed Israeli and Palestinian teachers. In the colonies, in the refugee camps, in the mixed schools. To understand the truth behind our society and the history we are handing down to our children."
Tamara is thirty years old (but she looks much younger). She is an Israeli filmmaker who currently lives in Paris and nurtures many passions we share: knowledge, war against stereotypes, a commitment to search out new perspectives on current and historical events. In Teaching Ignorance, a teacher from a Hebrew Colony candidly declares, “It’s obvious that our children don’t like Arabs. Their only doubt is whether they should kill them or not.” And the statements by the Palestinians are just as shocking, in their own way both have disturbingly perfected their adulteration of history. In Lisbon, in addition to learning a lot about making documentaries, I realized that there are still many people in the world, especially young people, who believe in cultural projects that deal with social issues, the hidden suffering in the shadows of news stories, of little known filmmakers, who are creating important works in difficult situations. And it is comforting, almost exciting, to know that there still exists a form of information intertwined with art that deals with issues that traditional information channels ignores. It takes shape in the form of documentary films that are all but ignored by our movie theaters and Italian television programming.
The Polish filmmaker Alina Skrzeszewska who now lives in the United States, for example, lived with women drug dealers in crack houses on Skid Row, an infamous Los Angeles neighborhood, for a year to shoot Game Girls. She tells the story of these women, who are trying to clean up, using the crudeness typical of black and white imagery and the delicacy that emerges from intimate conversations between women.
The documentary Creative Despite Warby Chilean filmmaker Riu Diaz was also wonderful, presented at Lisbon by the producer Juan Camilo Cruz. It is a portrait of young people in Afghanistan trying to express their lives through art, including the painter Rada Akbar, musicians from the band District Unknown, (the first heavy metal band in Afghanistan), and Shamsia, a graffiti writer from the outskirts of Kabul. The trailer reminded me of the film The Persian Cats, set in Iran, transmitting the same desire of teenagers to express themselves in a universal language that surpasses borders imposed through violence. Then The Silk Railroad by the American filmmaker, Martin DiCicco investigates how the new railroad being built through Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, excluding Armenia from the route, will create new social and economic balances in the area and will broaden the horizons of the people who live there. And Dreamocracy, a Portuguese production directed by the French filmmakers Raquel Freire and Valérie Mitteaux, is a political journey with a comic twist featuring Pedro Santos and João Labrincha, the Portuguese activists that well before the Spanish indignados brought crowds into the streets of their country to protest the austerity measures imposed by Europe. Now they are opening a school for political activism to make young people the protagonists of change. Palikot People by Polish filmmaker Konrad Szolaiski features Poland’s most transgressive politician ever: Janusz Palikot, the first to publicly condemn corruption in the local Catholic Church, to speak in favor of legalizing recreational drugs, and the first to recruit a transsexual, a feminist leader and a gay rights activist for his political movement. This in Poland where abortion is still illegal and mental illness is cured through exorcism. The grotesque and very original, Sheitel! by the British Jewish filmmaker Natasha Serlin is an ironic look at the sheitel, the wig that Orthodox Jewish women wear in place of the veil imposed by their religion. The wig hides their real hair as it should, but women have ingeniously found a way to still look good. As one worried rabbi declares to Natasha in an interview, “The wigs make them look more attractive than if they were to go around bald. It’s a huge problem.”
From the documentary Just to let you know that I’m alive
I was there representing Italy, along with my friend Raffaella Milazzo (the producer of Just To Let You Know That I’m Alive), and the director Vincenzo De Cecco who is working on an visual essay on how the concepts of wealth and poverty have been subverted by the economic crisis, and on paths that can lead to new visions of global equity. Overall, this encounter with emerging filmmakers was an unexpected and intense meeting of culture, ideas, enthusiasm and opportunities for the future. It was alo an opportunity to make useful contacts for when I finish Just To Let You Know That I’m Alive. In fact several outlets showed interest in our Sahrawi women, including Spanish TV Chello Multicanal, the German TV RBB, the Dutch IKON and even the Tribeca Film Institute. Now we just have to edit and produce it. To help us achieve this aim, we’ve started an online fund-raising campaign at the following: http://www.emphas.is/web/guest/discoverprojects?projectID=761