PLOT A look at Zionism, Israel and the creation of a modern-day problem.
PLAYING AT Malverne Cinema and Art Center
BOTTOM LINE A coolheaded survey of a fraught topic. The highly intelligent commentators make for fascinating listening.
Of all the metaphors for the Israel-Palestine conflict put forth in the documentary “Colliding Dreams,” the best comes from peace activist Orly Noy. She says the 1948 establishment of Israel, following centuries of Jewish persecution but with little regard for the people already living on the land, is a lot like someone “jumping out of a burning building and falling on someone else’s head.”
“Colliding Dreams” is an ambitious film that tackles no less a subject than Zionism, the movement that gave birth to Israel and, over the years, helped create one of the Middle East’s most vexing political and ethical problems. That burning-building quote won’t please everyone, but you can see why directors Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky place it near the very start of their film. It blames neither party, yet acknowledges that an injury has been done.
The collective eloquence and brainpower on display in “Colliding Dreams” makes for a high-quality crash-course in Israeli history. The film offers a steady stream of intelligent, reflective commentary — from both sides — on a highly emotional issue. The interviewees tend to be historians, authors and academics (Avishai Margalit, a philosophy professor who fought in the Six Day War, is one of the most insightful speakers), while politicians are in thankfully short supply. Sidewalk interviews with residents in the region serve to remind us that this is not an ivory-tower debate.
Dorman and Rudavsky do an excellent job of getting their arms around a subject that is massive and multi-tentacled, not to mention highly subjective and incendiary. Their film is organized into five chronological segments (the early footage of Jewish settlers coexisting with Palestinians is fascinating) and aims to be as balanced as possible. Jews speak of both deep national pride and nagging guilt, while Palestinians reveal at least a little empathy within their anger. A former Intifada leader admits, somewhat sheepishly, that while making anti-Jewish “Go Home” signs, there was some internal debate: Where’s their home?
Overall, “Colliding Dreams” feels more like an educational tool than a documentary — very modulated and careful not to proselytize. That isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it may be exactly the kind of approach this topic needs.