To Die in Jerusalem
Empty9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1
Some politically minded documentaries work hard to elicit a reaction from their audiences. Without even trying, the beautifully structured and emotionally devastating "To Die in Jerusalem" is strong medicine about the toll on human life and family ties exacted from suicide bombings in the Middle East. Without ever manipulating or appearing to sermonize, the documentary, directed Hilla Medalia, makes the viewer wonder when and if the nightmare will ever end.
It takes a simple story, and Medalia has it down. One day in 2002, a 17-year-old Israeli student, Rachel Levy, walked into a Jerusalem supermarket -- the exact same moment 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber Ayat al-Akhras blew herself up in the market. Both girls died, and it wasn't until several years later that their mothers finally met. "Jerusalem" is that simple in structure: the meeting of two mothers whose grief represents two grieving populations. The docu resounds with emotion and lessons learned, lessons that go unheeded, emotions that ignite time and again.
Medalia catches the two mothers and their families in close-up shots that have much larger implications. It couldn't be simpler than the grief of two mothers and two peoples at war. Yet after decades of retaliation between Israelis and the Palestinians, as the docu shows, grief is just part of the landscape.