After 10 days of Middle Eastern movie screenings and related guest speakers, the third annual Israeli-Palestinian Film Festival will draw to a close tomorrow.
First organized in 2007 by the Israeli-Palestinian Film Club, the festival effectively became the world’s first student-organized festival dedicated to both Israeli and Palestinian cinema. This year’s event kicked off last Monday with a showing of the Academy Award-nominated film “Waltz with Bashir” and will end tomorrow night with a screening of “Driving to ZigzigLand.” The showing will also feature a performance by the Middle East Ensemble and a discussion with the director of “Zigzigland,” Nicole Ballivian. The festival’s free screenings and lectures are being held in university-affiliated buildings around campus and Isla Vista.
Lauren Zabel, IPFF head chair, said the event allows students to formulate their own thoughts about the current situation in the Middle East.
“Our main goal as a festival is to clear up some misconceptions of what it means to be a citizen of this one, shared area,” Zabel, a third-year film & media studies major, said. “We want to introduce the people and the stories, beyond the destructive war images shown on the news. If the news media were all I saw, who wouldn’t be polarized?”
A variety of campus organizations joined forces with the club to organize this year’s festival, including American Students for Israel, Amnesty International, Lebanese Club, the Muslim Student Association, the Persian Students Association, Santa Barbara Hillel, Students for Justice in Palestine and Students for Understanding in the Middle East.
Publicity chair Nathan Roller said the event effectively puts Middle Eastern conflicts into perspective.
“It is really easy to get into this heated political mode where we stop seeing the other side as human,” Roller said. “Film is a really good way to show the humanity in people on both sides of this conflict.”
Roller said the festival’s diverse selection of films provides an opportunity to educate students on a variety of cultures.
“We really wanted to make it open and get as many groups involved as possible,” Roller said. “People from all these different groups were able to come together and vote on what they thought would be meaningful. The result is a festival with a very balanced representation of different perspectives.”
Erik Bromberg, the film club’s fundraising chair, said that although financing the festival was a tough task, the campus community provided significant assistance.
“This year we’re trying to do the festival on a much larger scale than last year so the costs have definitely increased, but we have found a way to make it work,” Bromberg said. “We’ve been trying to get sponsorships from the community which has been very hard, but on-campus funding sources have been very generous.”
Meanwhile, Zabel noted that the Israeli-Palestinian Film Festival is only the beginning of many events geared at educating students about the Middle East.
“We hope that our films, speakers and in the future arts and music, help our fellow Gauchos to understand the bigger picture of what it’s really like ‘over there,'” Zabel said. “By this, we consider ourselves at the beginning of a truly meaningful path towards peace and understanding in Santa Barbara.”