Budrus, the critically acclaimed, award-winning documentary written and directed by Julia Bacha, will make its Winston-Salem premiere 8 p.m. Sunday at the a/perture cinema (311 W. 4 th St., Winston-Salem).
The film offers a microcosm of Israeli/Palestinian dissent and takes place in and around the title West Bank village, where the Palestinian population finds itself up against Israeli forces who have been assigned to clear the way for a fence, known as the “Separation Border,” that separates (and segregates) the two factions.
Although the fence is designed to prevent hostilities between the two nations, its proposed path would destroy the village’s olive trees, upon which the villagers depend for their livelihood. Having exhausted every other option, they mount a non-violent protest in the hopes of preventing the fence‘s construction through their village. Organized in large part by Budrus’ mayor, Ayed Morrar, the standoff lasts nearly a year, during which time both tensions and hopes run hot and cold, while increased media coverage brings international attention to the plight of Budrus.
The filmmakers (wisely) adopt an evenhanded approach, interviewing principals on both sides of the issue, each one offering a rational, valid point of view. There are no good guys or bad guys, although there’s a fairly clean-cut assessment that compromise (on both sides) might be the key to solving this dilemma.
Yet, in a region that has seen more than its fair share of enmity, mistrust and bloodshed, can some kind of accord be reached? Therein lies the film’s palpable suspense, even for those who may already be aware of this story’s outcome.
There is, of course, a long way to go toward repairing Israeli/Palestinian relations — if, indeed, it’s possible at all — but Budrus offers a hopeful step forward, and does so without being cloying, obvious or overly sentimental.
The special guest for the Budrus screening at a/perture is the film’s associate producer and associate editor Jessica Devaney, who will discuss the production and engage in a questionand-answer session following the screening.
Devaney is the communications and production manager for Just Vision, which produced and distributed the film. Just Vision is a North American/Palestinian/Israeli non-profit organization that uses media to focus on the efforts of Palestinians and Israelis who work together toward resolving the long-standing conflict between the two nations. The story of Budrus is a quintessential example of their goal.
Devaney, a graduate of Wake Forest University (class of ‘06), had recently completed a year of study at Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies when she first became aware of the project, and was immediately drawn to its message.
“Just Vision’s aim of supporting unarmed civilian efforts to end the occupation and solve the conflict resonated with my belief in the power of people coming together non-violently to change their reality,” she explained in an exclusive YES! Weekly interview.
Currently making the rounds at film festivals and special screenings around the world, Budrus has racked up awards and accolades by the score, including the Audience Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Panorama Audience Award (second prize) at the Berlin International Film Festival, a Special Jury mention at the Tribeca Film Festival, Best Documentary in the Spirit of Freedom Award (honorable mention) at the Jerusalem International Film Festival, the Witness Award at the Silverdocs Film Festival, the Amnesty Award Italia Award at the Pesaro Film Festival, the Festival des Libertes Prize at the 2010 Festival des Libertes and more.
Awards are a good way of drawing attention to the film and its message but, Devaney noted, just as important, if not more so, is the feedback she and the other filmmakers have gotten from audiences around the world.
“I am continually inspired by post-screening dialogues and audience reactions around the world, but it was the premieres in Israeli and Palestinian society this [past] summer that were the most energizing,” she said. “We premiered to an audience of over 700 Palestinians from all political factions, Israelis and international activists in Ramallah at the Cultural Palace, and… [all] the activists profiled in the film received a standing ovation after the film ended.
“Seeing the overwhelmingly positive audience reactions in the region was an incredibly powerful experience for our team.”
Devaney and the Just Visions contingent have recently launched the US Campus Engagement Campaign for the film “and are developing supplementary resources, such as an in-depth discussion guide to help equip educators and community leaders to host Budrus screenings and facilitate meaningful discussions.”
Thus, the message and meaning of Budrus will continue to resonate, both here in the US and abroad.