Hope that everyone made it over to see something during the 11-day Washington, DC Jewish Film Festival! I’ve been in the midst of end-of-semester stuff for grad school, but I now have the time to promote the film I squeezed in on Saturday, December 10: “Love During Wartime.”
When I first stepped into AFI, I did harbor some doubts. There is, after all, precious little that is as polarizing as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In fact, Swedish director Gabriella Bier could not be with us, but she bid staff to read a little note that claimed, in part, that although she did not always agree with her subjects, she tried to portray them as accurate to themselves. Uh oh, I thought to myself, which side is getting the shaft?
I came to realize that the “side” getting the shaft was the marriage between two people in love. Their oppressor was the system—both Israeli and Palestinian—which could not allow them the affordance of living together in one of their home countries. On a larger scale even other parts of the world were oppressive, which surprised me the most.
Osama (known as “Assi”) in Israel moved briefly to Tel Aviv a few years back and met Jasmin. Watching the documentary, it isn’t difficult to see why they may be in love. They are both artists—Osama with his sculptures and Jasmin with her dance. When Osama’s temporary status in Israel is up, he must move back to Ramallah. The couple tries in vain to get permission for Jasmin to join him, which Israel refuses for security reasons (not entirely unfounded, since Osama himself is taken and beaten by Palestinian police forces for marrying “a Jew.”) But Israel also refuses to let him return to Jasmin’s family in Jerusalem. Out of options, Jasmin moves to Berlin, where her mother was born during the Third Reich and where she hopes to obtain a visa for Osama so they can finally live together as husband and wife.
But even when that happens, troubles still plague the young couple. Germany, which shocked me at first, but now perhaps seems part of European fear-mongering about Arabs, dragged their feet for as long as they could and only allowed Osama a temporary, student visa. This meant that he wasn’t allowed to work, putting strain on the marriage as Jasmin supported the pair of them. They finally kicked him out, citing that Jasmin’s mother was in fact not a German citizen thanks to the complications of a Jew being born there during the Holocaust. On a happier note, they moved to Vienna where Osama had success with a sculpture exhibit. The film ends by saying they now have a little girl. I left the theater in a surprisingly optimistic mood, hoping that despite all these troubles, Osama and Jasmin stayed together, and were happy.
I was also very impressed with Bier. Diligently following this couple around for sporadic stints over a few years, she nevertheless captured the complexity of their characters as they battled between love and hate for their homelands, for Germany, and for their relationship. Their families were also filmed, and from that one can see the truth behind the Israeli/Palestinian conflict—behind the rockets and the gunfire there are real families, just like any, trying to live in peace. Not exactly the major crux of the story, but it was relieving to see past the barricaded wall of the Middle East.
“Love During Wartime” was cosponsored with the Embassy of Sweden. View the “Love During Wartime” trailer on YouTube. Check out my previous coverage of WJFF films, including “Judios en el espacio” and “La Cámera Obscura.”