A Team Reunited In A Land Divided

By Tim Stoner, EGM Contributor

This is the second installment of a multi-part series on film screenings in Israel and Palestine. Additional posts will appear shortly. If you missed the first post, click here.

The sedan rushed through bustling Jerusalem streets, its driver focused on getting his passengers from a near vacant checkpoint to a popular entertainment complex. That they would arrive with time to spare was never a concern for Noam Shalev. The Israeli film producer shifted into the role of “fixer” as smoothly as his car’s automatic transmission slipped between gears. He was an industry pro skilled to make it happen—whatever “it” happens to be.

Fortunately, Noam was extremely familiar with working with the EGM team, having assisted in production while the Oklahoma-based crew shot parts of Little Town of Bethlehem in Israel. Ironically, he had never met his Palestinian counterparts who had also teamed with EGM on the film. Noam was also EGM’s point person in Israel, overseeing planning and coordination of two very important screenings.

One was just about to start.

The EGM team quickly regrouped outside the Jerusalem Cinematheque, and once inside, made their way to the theater reserved for the night.

Mirroring the earlier Bethlehem screening, EGM’s president, Bill Oechsler, welcomed the hundred or so in attendance (no need for translation this time). His introduction once again included the regrets sent from director Jim Hanon. Sadly, he was missing the chance to introduce the very film he spent three years making in the very place it was made.

The grueling production schedule against a hard December deadline had taken a physical toll on Jim. Following doctor’s orders, and with much hesitation, he had stayed behind. But his vision for this project, the work of his hands, and heart for these men with their incredible stories was clearly front and center.

A spirited dialogue immediately followed the screening. Audience reactions were diverse. Some were challenged. Some were supportive. And some were encouraged. Mart Green, EGM’s CEO and the executive producer of Little Town of Bethlehem, listened respectfully to each comment and suggestion. One of the film’s three protagonists, Sami Awad, joined Mart in facilitating a conversation occurring less with attendees and more between them.

Conversations spilled out of the theater and into the adjacent lobby where refreshments had been prepared. An hour later, Sami was still engaged in deep discussion with more than a dozen audience members. Mart was there also. After three hours it was time to head back to the checkpoint and into Bethlehem.

Still more ahead…

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