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‘Colliding Dreams’ offers a balanced view

The documentary "Colliding Dreams" opens today at the Magic Lantern Theater. Following is the review of the film that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

In a world that seems to grow more polarized by the day, some issues don’t feature much of a middle ground. Abortion, for example. Or restrictions on the Second Amendment.

Near the top of any such list, you’re likely to find disparate attitudes toward Zionism, which the Jewish Virtual Library defines as “the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.”

Take what Mahatma Ghandi had to say: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs.”

In contrast, we have former Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, who once declared, “There is no difference whatever between anti-Semitism and the denial of Israel's statehood.”

Zionism, and all that term implies – for good and bad – is the topic that documentary filmmakers Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky explore in “Colliding Dreams,” a study in balanced storytelling that opens today at the Magic Lantern Theater. And by balanced, I mean that the film doesn’t indict or excuse Zionism so much as attempt to explain it.

As such, Dorman and Rudavsky have created something that is ambitious in intent – covering more than a century and a third of history in just over two hours – if a bit dry in execution.

Unfolding like a college survey course, “Colliding Dreams” provides a historical overview, keying on events such as 19th-century European immigration, the 1947 United Nations vote to partition Palestine, the Six Day War of 20 years later, and the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Dorman and Rudavsky detail the work of such 19th-century social theorists as Theodor Herzl, the Austro-Hungarian journalist who was one of the first proponents of what would become modern Zionism. They document, too, the changing nature of the Zionist movement from one that focused on founding a home for Jews to founding a home exclusively for Jews.

Yet the filmmakers do strive to be fair. They augment everything with contemporary interviews that incorporate a wide range of diverse views.  Included in the film’s ongoing dialogue are both members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Orthodox Jews, both secular Jewish writers and Palestinian scholars, not to mention various on-the-street comments made by residents of Tel Aviv.

One notable interviewee is former Israeli minister of education Yuli Tamir, now a peace activist, who proclaims, “All national myths are fictions. For Jews, for Arabs, for Christians. It's all fiction. Nothing is true … that's the myth of nationalism; it really works. Like love, people are ready to die for it.”

The refreshing part of all this is, of course, the inclusion of these different opinions. Furthermore, “Colliding Dreams” – for all the fatalistic implications of that title – does offer some sense of hope, a feeling that, ultimately, time may yet soften the hard edge of history.

Time, as has been said more than once, does tend to be on humanity’s side.