Producer-director Hava Kohav Beller has done a great service to the cause of peace with her engrossing, illuminating documentary “In the Land of Pomegranates.” By recording the conversations that took place at a meeting between Palestinians and Israelis, Kohav demonstrates the possibilities of coming together on a personal level with understanding of each other’s biases and impressions. If only this could become the case in the real world of Middle East troubles.
The set-up that intrigued Beller was a retreat in Germany for Palestinians and Israelis invited to take part in a project called “Vacation from War.” They had regular contact as they lived in the same place and met to discuss their respective views. There is an overriding feeling that if only it could come down to basic personal human relationships, things could change for the better.
But there is a lot to overcome. The Palestinians in general see themselves as victims, and the Israelis have a totally different conception of the facts. But as they argue, discuss and speak person to person, one’s hopes are raised dramatically. Unfortunately, they are not the ones making the decisions, as the powers that be are locked into the political and often violent hostilities that have endured as a pattern.
Beller also goes outside of the discussions to focus on others who have various viewpoints and experiences in concrete situations. One of the most moving sequences involves a Palestinian mother who takes her ill son to an Israeli doctor. He saves the boy’s life. It is an affirmative example of what could be the norm if only there were regular peaceful interchange.
One comes away encouraged by the possibilities, but also discouraged because those in control are far from the relationships deemed possible, as the daily headlines make clear.
The title of the film is symbolically double-edged. On the one hand the pomegranate is a fruit of the land that symbolizes rejuvenation and rebirth. But it is also a word used for hand grenades. The lingering question: Which will it be for Palestinians and Israelis?
Beller’s film is to be strongly recommended for the light it sheds and for the hope it raises for a future, if only there could be a political breakthrough. Her important movie is a welcome contribution to the need for greater dialogue and further movement toward the peace process. A First Run Features release. Reviewed January 3, 2018.