Tzivi reviews Colliding Dreams

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Colliding Dreams, a new documentary about the history of the Arab/Israeli conflict from the Jewish-American point of view, comes to us from two men with superlative credentials. Filmmaker Joseph Dorman is best-known to us as the director of Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness. Oren Rudavsky is best-known to us as the director of Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance after the Holocaust. Together they have taken a leap of faith, crafting an epic drama worthy of its subject.

I first saw the directors’ cut of this film at the 2015 New York Jewish Film Festival. Back then it was called The Zionist Idea, and it was 160 minutes long (2 hours and 40 minutes). That was just fine with me, but clearly too long for others. So Dorman and Rudavsky locked themselves up with their editors to produce this new cut, which is “only” 134 minutes long. However, I am happy to report that Colliding Dreams is not merely 26 minutes shorter than The Zionist Idea, it is also tighter and better focused -- so all their travails were well worth the effort.

In a Q and A after the screening that I attended at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema in Manhattan on March 4, Dorman said: “Me, Oren, and our two editors, we fought a lot to be truthful to all points of view … but we didn’t make a film about Palestine. We made a film about Zionism from the Jewish point of view, although we did try to capture the Palestinian point of view too.”

But this relatively straightforward statement belies the complexity of their endeavor. There is no one “Jewish point of view,” nor is there one “Palestinian point of view.” So the attempt to “be truthful to all points of view” really means focusing on the differences within each group, in hopes of finding points on the continuum where most people find themselves closer to the midpoint than to either of the poles.

The filmmakers give this their all. Quoting Dorman in the Q and A again: “We have no ‘political message’ per se. [Oren and I] believe in a Two-State Solution. A Jewish State must be democratic. So both attacks on Israel and self-righteous support for Israel are both wrong-headed … There will always be at least two narratives.”

These twin narratives are presented chronologically -- with voiceover by Michael Douglas -- in five sections:

  • The Jewish Dilemma
  • One Land/Two Peoples
  • Another Zionism
  • Recognition
  • The Zionist Dilemma

The timespan is more than a century, from 1882 to the day before yesterday. Every major milestone and movement is described, with abundant historical footage prompting cheers and tears. The long list of speakers includes the famous and the infamous. (Which talking head should get which label will depend, of course, on your own point of view.) There are many politicians and religious leaders as well as artists and intellectuals. There are also citizen voices, people in the flow of daily life who are interviewed on the sidewalks of Tel Aviv and Ramallah.

This is a complex, demanding film, and I will not attempt to summarize further. All I can really do is urge you to see it for yourself, for yourself, your children and Jews everywhere.

Colliding Dreams opens in Metro Chicago March 25 at the Music Box Theater on Southport and the Landmark Renaissance Center Cinema in Highland Park. For times and tickets, follow these links to the Music Box website, and the Landmark website.

For additional photos and comments from the Lincoln Plaza Cinema Q and A with Joe Dorman, visit my Blog Second City Tzivi.

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Top Photo: IDF soldiers remove a protester during the evacuation of an Israeli settlement.

Bottom Photo: A group of young “illegal” immigrants on board the Hagana ship “Jewish State” arrive in the port of Haifa. (Note: I took the liberty of converting this photo from black and white to sepia so that the wonderful expressions on these precious faces would show better online.)

Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Colliding Dreams website.

After 35 years in Chicago, Jan Lisa Huttner (Tzivi) now lives in Brooklyn. She recently released a new eBook, " Tevye's Daughters: No Laughing Matter ."... Read More

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