Bruno Bombs, Students Shine at Cinema South

Haim Watzman

The Sapir College faculty member who introduced Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch, screened at this year’s Cinema South Festival in Sderot, said that Dumont seeks in his films to understand the intricacies and intimacies of religious faith. Hadewijch is a technically fine, formally intriguing film, one in which it is clear that the director has given great thought to each shot and frame. But for a film about faith it is curiously soulless.

The story is about a girl named Celine, who has, as a pre-novice at a convent, taken the religious name Hadewijch, after a medieval visionary who wrote of her passion for Jesus. Her superiors, worried at her over-asceticism, send her back to her huge, ornate, and loveless home. For a convent girl, she has surprisingly few compunctions about allowing herself to be picked up in a café by a low-life from the projects whose devout Muslim brother convinces her to take part in a terror operation. Throughout her preparations, and in the film’s coda, in which Celine seems somehow to have survived the explosion, she insists that her only great love is for Jesus. We see that love, but we do not feel it.

The next day’s screening of Dumont’s Flanders left me with the same sense that Dumont’s carefully planned exteriors do not connect with the interiors of his characters.

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Obama in Israel: Political Implications

Gershom Gorenberg

Obama stopped through for two nights and a day, as if he were writing one of the New York Times travel pieces about how to spend 36 hours in some locale. At first glance, the trip was purely about photo-ops, gathering footage for later campaign ads that will air in south Florida. But there were some hints of real political content, as I explain in my new article at The American Prospect. Here’s one piece:

Hamas Walks It Back: On Wednesday morning, Israel Radio reported responses to Obama’s arrival, including this one: “A Hamas spokesman said, ‘The American senator is trying to reach the White House via Tel Aviv, at the expense of the Palestinians.'”

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Cinema of the South: Celebrating Sderot and Kerala

Haim Watzman

Sderot was celebrating yesterday–it’s been celebrating all week, in fact. Who cares about the missiles coming over from Gaza when you can catch a good flick–lots of them? The Cinema South Festival, held in Sderot each year under the sponsorship of the film school at adjacent Sapir College, is one of the most stimulating, and heart-warming cultural events on Israel’s calendar.

The day’s only Red Alert happened just as we emerged from our rental car next to the housing project where my daughter, Mizmor (finishing up her first year in the animation program) lives. We scurried to safety–well, it’s all relative–under one of the building’s outdoor stairwells until, seconds later, we heard a distant boom.

After dropping off some home-cooked food in her apartment, we drove over to the Sderot Cinematecque. The festival was in full swing. “South” here doesn’t mean Alabama and Georgia-it means Israel’s poor, forgotten, and bombarded Negev region. Sapir students were quaffing beers and muching on sandwiches and sticky sweets while a Kerala band played songs that sent my wife Ilana-whose late father grew up in Bombay, after his family moved there from Baghdad-into dreamy nostalgia.

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