Friday, 13 May 2011

Little Town of Bethlehem

Little Town of Bethlehem is a unique and important 2010 documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, written and directed by Jim Hanon. It’s unique in various ways. For one thing, instead of focusing on the conflict itself, it focuses on nonviolent solutions. It does this by telling us the story of three men who grew up in Bethlehem: an Israeli Jew, a Palestinian Christian and a Palestinian Muslim. Coming from very different backgrounds and affected by the conflict in different ways, these three men nevertheless share a passion for finding a nonviolent way forward. Nonviolence itself is at the heart of the film and so Martin Luther King and Gandhi are also featured.

Little Town of Bethlehem is also unique stylistically; in fact, it is unlike any documentary I have ever seen. Fast-paced to a fault as it zips from one scene to the next, it is clearly aimed at a younger audience. That makes it ideal for something like the Wild Goose Festival (where we will be screening it), but it’s not always easy to follow the fascinating stories being told.

For decades now, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lain at the very heart of the world’s violent struggles. Little Town of Bethlehem does not hide the issues involved, but it presents them in a way that diffuses tension. It is the way of humanization (in its telling of stories from three perspectives) and nonviolence (in its hopeful depiction of what nonviolence has accomplished and could yet accomplish). In the aftermath of the dehumanizing and violent killing of bin Laden, this is the message our world needs to hear.

Because I am not a fan of its style, I cannot give Little Town ****, but I will give it a solid ***+ and recommend it to all. My mug is up.

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