Return to Haifa – The Other’s Story
Directed by David A. Goldenberg
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“For 40 years there have been times when I was convinced that things are bleak and that freedom of expression is in clear and present danger. This is why it’s important to see this movie, which deals with the strength and weakness of theater.” Michael Handelzalts, Theater Critic, Haaretz newspaper, Israel
“The minute a play like this goes on stage, it puts cracks in (our) wall of victimhood.” Rami Elhanan, a founder of the Bereaved Parents Circle whose daughter was killed by a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 1997.
“When you talk about…Return to Haifa, for me it’s returning to humanity.” Dr. Magid Khamra, Haifa writer whose mother had to flee Haifa in 1948 at age 14.
In 1969, Ghassan Kanafani, the best-known Palestinian author, wrote a novella called Returning to Haifa. Using the powerful allegory of a shared child, he created sympathetic characters scarred by the Jewish Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba or exodus.
For many Jewish Israelis, Kanafani is a highly controversial figure. He was a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an ultra radical wing of the PLO. Kanafani was killed by an Israeli car bomb in Beirut in 1972, in apparent retaliation for the Ben Gurion Airport attack sponsored by the PLFP.
?In 2008 Boaz Gaon crafted a Hebrew theatrical adaptation of Returning to Haifa. The production, by Israel’s premier venue, the Cameri Theater, drew both critical acclaim and political condemnation in Israel. Then in January 2011 the Cameri cast staged the play at Washington’s Theater J before mixed audiences of American Jews, Israelis, and Palestinians.
The documentary transports its audience through the narrative of the play and explores the complex feelings of Jewish and Palestinian cast members, the set designer, the director, the playwright, and the Palestinians and Holocaust survivors in the Washington audience. Filmed in Israel and Washington, DC, the documentary investigates the controversy that surrounded the play in both Israel and Washington.
Palestinians and Israeli Jews, each side clings tenaciously to its own narrative of sorrow and suffering. Yes, for a brief moment, in a darkened theater, individuals were emotionally moved by “the other’s story”. Our film preserves that moment and it is critical to expose a much larger audience to it. Please support our effort to spread this message.
David A. Goldenberg holds a PhD in anthropology. Over three decades, he supported and evaluated international development projects in thirty-five countries for such NGOs as CARE, Save the Children, and Plan International. Since 2000, he has been making documentary films concerned with international development, U.S. community organizations, and the arts. He has previously filmed, edited, and produced a series of films about two other Israeli plays: Motti Lerner’s Pangs of the Messiah and Hillel Mitelpunkt’s The Accident.