Julia Bacha: Budrus is a small Palestinian village that might carry the secret for ending the Middle East conflict in a pluralistic and nonviolent way. In the film Budrus, we tell the story of Palestinian community organizer Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village from destruction by Israel's Separation Barrier. Success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter Iltezam launches a women's contingent that quickly moves to the front lines. Struggling side by side, father and daughter unleash an inspiring, yet little known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today.
JB: Budrus inspired everyone at Just Vision, the organization I work for. We wanted to put this village on the map since most people have never heard about it. In this village's story of resistance, you can see the contours of a Gandhian struggle that crosses political, gender, and national boundaries, and that is scalable, meaning it could be used for tacking the Occupation as a whole. We really believe this story can change the face of the Middle East.
TribecaFilm.com: What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened while making the film?
JB: Securing the interview with Yasmine Levy, the Israeli squad commander stationed in the village during the demonstrations, was one of the most important moments. Without Yasmine's candid interview, it would have been really hard to tell the full story of what happened in Budrus.
TribecaFilm.com: What's the biggest thing you learned while making Budrus?
JB: For seven years now, villages across the West Bank have experienced a resurgence in nonviolent strategies to resist the Israeli Occupation. Combining tactics borrowed from the first intifada in the 1980s with the active participation of Israeli and international activists, this movement, though still fragile, carries great potential for the region.
However, local and international journalists have only recently started covering this story (the front page piece in the NYT a week ago was the first of its kind and could indicate a turning point). We hope this film can help bring this fledgling nonviolent movement to the center of the international debate on the Middle East.
TribecaFilm.com: As a returning Tribeca filmmaker, what are your expectations for this year's Festival?
JB: Everywhere the film has screened—Dubai, Berlin, London—audiences have been completely surprised that they had never heard about Budrus. I believe this will be even truer at Tribeca, where audiences are particularly interested and involved in the Middle East. This will be the North American premiere of the film and is a particularly special opening since my previous documentary, Encounter Point, had its world premiere at Tribeca in 2006. All the filmmakers and protagonists of the film will be in New York so the Q&A's promise to be quite lively and moving.
TribecaFilm.com: What do you remember most about the Tribeca screenings of Encounter Point in 2006?
JB: The 5-minute-long standing ovation after our premiere in a sold-out, 800-seat theater was for sure the highlight. The four Israeli and Palestinian protagonists from the film were there, some of them in the United States for the first time, and they could not believe there could be so much support for the hard work they are doing in the Middle East. I can only hope we get a similarly energetic response this year!
TribecaFilm.com: What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers, particularly women and/or doc filmmakers, in today's landscape?
JB: Find an amazing team to work with you and build a strong relationship of trust among each other so you can count on each other when things get tough, as they are bound to in this field!
TribecaFilm.com: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?
JB: Gillo Pontecorvo, director of Battle of Algiers. I can't tell you how often I think of this film. If this was 2006, we could still try to make it happen...
TribecaFilm.com: What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?
JB: The most beautiful book I read this year is the Brazilian Chico Buarque's Leite Derramado, but the one I have been talking about the most is A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance by Mary Elizabeth King. It provides great insights into what went on in the 1980s and can help people understand and talk about what's going on today.
TribecaFilm.com: What makes Budrus a Tribeca must-see?
JB: While this film is about one Palestinian village, it tells a much bigger story about what is possible in the Middle East. Ayed succeeded in doing what many people believe to be impossible: he united feuding Palestinian political groups, including Fatah and Hamas; he brought women to the heart of the struggle by encouraging his daughter Iltezam's leadership; and welcoming hundreds of Israelis to cross into Palestinian territory for the first time and join this nonviolent effort. Many of the activists who joined the villagers of Budrus are now continuing to support nonviolence efforts in villages from Bil'in to Nabi Saleh to Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. It's a very timely film.
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