Israeli film makers ask the children of the Middle East their point of view. One of the most poignant and relevant documentaries you’ll ever see.
Promises is a film to make you laugh and cry in equal proportions as the filmmakers take you on a journey of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of the people to whom it matters most: the children.
Following the lives of 7 children in Israel and occupied Palestine between 1997-2000, Promises is a series of interviews where kids of moderate and extreme backgrounds are interviewed on various themes like religion, the peace process and the things important to them in their daily lives. Living just 20 minutes away from each other the children grow up worlds apart, divided by military checkpoints, religious dogma and bitter experience.
Yet Promises shows us just how much the children have in common and how they’re often able to leapfrog the differences between them. It’s nothing short of humbling to watch the children debate politics between them and observe ‘all children are innocent’ and that peace can only come about if the Israelis and Arabs talk to one another.
The film makers actually take two of the liberal Israeli kids to a Palestinian refugee camp and they quickly find common ground with the Palestinian children when they play football, wrestle and eat hummous. The day ends with a poignant discussion that leaves even the filmmakers crying as the Palestinian children remember a friend shot dead in the first Intifada and wonder if the frail friendship established that day with the Israeli boys could ever be maintained.
Some of the other children of more extreme backgrounds have no wish to meet though even their reluctance is betrayed on camera by their young spirits. An orthodox religious boy in Jerusalem finds himself competing for camera space with a local Arab boy who interrupts him by burping loudly. He burps back and an Israeli-Arabic burping competition is soon born.
Or take the Palestinian boy who declares he has no interest in meeting or talking with Israelis. The film maker then reminds him that although he speaks fluent Arabic, he himself is an Israeli.
No, the boy explains, you’re half-American, I mean authentic Jewish Israelis.
Well, I am one, the film maker responds. He’s an authentic Israeli? The boy asks, shocked, even as the camera pans back to show that the two have been holding hands all the while.
Anyone who has any interest in understanding the most famous conflict in the world needs to see Promises. The updates show interviews with the kids 7 years after the beginning of the project and they’re now grown big and part of the problem as much as anyone else. The protagonists in any war were all once children and Promises helps us see just how conflict is born.
And just perhaps, how it can be overcome.