Ada Ushpiz: Children

This is a world premiere of an excellent film, that will travel all over. Shot in the Eastern part of Jerusalem in Palestinian families with the focus on the children. How they cope with living close to settlers and therefore also to the constant presence of Israeli soldiers, who are there to protect the very same settlers. And is often met with rocks being thrown at them. And – the film documents – quite as often provokes kids, laying hands on them. Upon this historical context, quote from one of the texts on the screen up front, in an observational documentary filmed over years:

”In 2019 56 children were killed, 1000 children were jailed, released, then jailed again through ”a rotating door” policy…”

I am writing this just after having watched the film. I am shocked of what I have seen. Even if have seen numerous documentaries about the oppression of the Palestinians in the state of Israel. I am moved after meeting kids, whose lives are ruined by the atrocities they meet in an occupied country, where police brutality is performed. Kids for whom their childhood is full of nightmares and fear and anger. And desire for revenge, when their friends are killed or imprisoned. And I am sad when I listen to a conversation between a father and his son. The father – who has been jailed – believes in a two state construction, the son thinks the Jews should leave the country that they occupied.

Keep your head high, says the mother of Dima, the main character of the film. The mother wants so much that Dima – as a hero coming back from Israeli prison, 12 (!) years old, being jailed for a couple of months – talks to the journalists about, what happened in the prison, and how the other Palestinian female prisoners were treated – were they tortured tc. Dima does not want to talk about it – until at the end of the film, when she is some years older. Dima is followed by the camera, we see her growing, we see her in wonderful sequences (like the one on the photo) with Janna, same age, ”girls talk” full of joy also about boys of course, at the same time as the mother thinks that she has changed since she was in prison. Maybe, for sure she opposes the mother, who wants her to speak up for, what she thinks and has experienced. She takes off her scalf in the class room, your mother won’t like it, a class mate says. She visits another girl, who has been jailed. There is a lot of hugging in the film.

Main character, and yet, my heart bleeds for the little Dareen, who goes to school (6 years old at the beginning of the film) and learns by the teacher what “homeland” means, that she should be proud of being a Palestinian etc. The teacher puts a lot of right words into the classroom. What did you fear most, she asks, the police coming to your home or the snakes your father takes home to his aquarium. The snakes, she says! A bit later she is the witness to the fate of her older brother and cousin having been maltreated by the police with explosions in the street. The camera, the briliant editing should be mentioned, follows her emotions, she is scared – “go to my room Dareen, stop crying or I will beat you!”, says the father. Reading a face! And seeing how the teacher talks to her about her fear. Lovely.

I could go on mentioning strong scenes, full of emotions and food for your thought if you care about, what happens to the Palestinians and the young ones near Jerusalem after Trump’s (who is on the television screens in the Palestinian homes) talk about Jerusalem being the holy place for the Jews and noone else. Intifada. Amazing what and how the director has managed – from 200 hours of material – to put the children in the foreground. 

In an interview the director says: «The word ‘terrorist’ had become a code word for avoiding any real discussion of what was happening to these children. No-one on either side wanted to look for “any nuances and subtleties that may convey the complexity of the issue and the bigger picture.”

This film does! 










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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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