By Ryan Wilson

This week Delta College presents its annual Global Awareness Program, this year focusing on The Middle East. Three insightful documentaries are a part of this year’s program, and although each film chronicles its own specific issue regarding the region, all of the films share one common theme: the attempted use of nonviolence as a solution to years of turmoil.

The most focused example of this can be seen in the film Budrus, an award- winning feature documentary about a Palestinian community organizer who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village, called Budrus, from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier. Success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter launches a women’s contingent that quickly moves to the front lines. Struggling side by side, father and daughter unleash an inspiring, yet little-known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today.

What makes Budrus so powerful is that the village itself can serve as a microcosm for the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both the villagers, who want to live in peace, and the Israeli-military, who want to keep the peace, get to tell their side of the story. Yet the film complicates the debate by showing how some Israeli-peace activists side with the people of Budrus, making it difficult for the military to quell the protests. The film also illustrates just how difficult it is to keep a protest nonviolent. Eventually, frustration sets in and some of the Budrus protesters begin to throw rocks, which gives the Israeli-army, or at least its more stressed members, an excuse to retaliate. With some very raw and revealing footage of the protests, Budrus gets us perhaps closer to the conflict than ever before.

The documentary Little Town of Bethlehem takes a wider view of the region and the conflict. It focuses of the lives of three men of three different faiths and their lives in Israel and Palestine. One of the men has been educated in the United States and attempts to bring the nonviolent teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the region. To him the conflict is analogous to King’s Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Another man risks his life to teach others nonviolence, even after spending time in a refugee camp after being relocated. He tells the gripping story of just how risky it was to go back to try to salvage his television-set while being quickly forced out of his home.

But the film’s most gripping point of view comes from an Israeli-helicopter pilot. He gives us an insight into just how militaristic Israeli-culture is; something that he claims influenced his thinking growing up. Yet, as an adult he begins to question his role as a soldier, so much that begins to publicly refuse to fly missions that would lead to Palestinian civilian casualties.

Little Town of Bethlehem is extremely moving in its argument that a new sort of humanism must be introduced to overcome the cycle of violence that has risen out of nationalism and imperialism.

The most locally rooted film to be screened is Refusing to Be Enemies, which profiles the advocacy of a Michigan women’s group called “Zeitouna.” Their name refers to the Middle Eastern olive trees, which are synonymous with life itself in the region. In fact, the demolition of the trees is part of the uprising in the film Budrus. The women use the name because, like the trees, they see themselves as symbolic. Comprised of twelve women, six of Jewish descent, six of Arab descent, the group seeks to make itself a model for others. That they can come together as strangers and then work for a better understanding of each other’s culture can be viewed as an important first step in quelling tensions.

Yet what makes their film so interesting are the tensions that sometimes flare-up within the group’s own meetings. At times the women are so passionate about conveying their experiences and points of view that they can’t help but monopolize the conversation or tread on the perspective of others in the group. Yet even at the tensest of moments, there is respect and a willingness to empathize. Through this the film serves as a testament to what is possible when members of conflicting socio-politics sit down and listen. Director Laurie White will be present, along with two women from the film, one a Palestinian woman, another a Holocaust survivor.

Refusing to Be Enemies will screen on Thursday April 14 at 10 a.m. with a follow-up discussion. Little Town of Bethlehem will screen on Tuesday April 12 at 8 a.m. and again at 5 p.m. Budrus will screen Monday night April 11 at 7 p.m. and again on Tuesday April 13 at 3:30 p.m. All screenings will take place in the Delta College Lecture Theater. For the full program of all Global Awareness Week activities, films, and lectures visit

Take 5 on Film is a production of Delta College Quality Public Radio.

© Ryan Wilson, 2011