Imagine: the Palestinian mother of a suicide bomber and the Israeli mother of that suicide bomber's victim decide to meet. Both were mothers to teenage girls with dark hair and eyes that invited you into their souls. Tension and frustration runs through your veins as you watch emotions unfold. How is it going to work out?
Not smoothly, according to John Priddy, producer of To Die In Jerusalem, a documentary about these mothers directed by Hilla Medalia, a filmmaker invited by the Priddy Brothers production company to turn her student short (Daughters of Abraham) on the same subject into a feature film.
"In documentary film, you never know what the answers are going to be," says Priddy, who experienced remarkable challenges during filming. Just one: logistics of the meeting, with one mother not able to leave a refugee camp and the other refusing to enter it due to safety concerns.
Once the conversation finally begins, after years of multiple attempts, Priddy says one obstacle still lies in the way: "They are each having a separate monologue and the challenge is how do we create a dialogue."
No wonder To Die In Jerusalem is one of the films showing at this year's Windrider Film Forum, put on locally by the Fuller Theological Seminary. The entire point of the forum is to create discussion, a guarantee with Medalia's documentary. Especially now, with Israel making headlines by blocking aid ships into Palestine.
"These are small countries, this is one ship, and yet the story is on a world stage," Priddy says. "What happens in the Middle East ends up being important to the world in a way that's unlike conflict in other parts of the world."
The Windrider selections this year also touch on another spot that has recently had its fair share of world attention, New Orleans, with Medalia's more recent project, After the Storm. The documentary reminisces on the experiences of kids who lived through Hurricane Katrina, but triumph years later by putting on the play Once On This Island with help from some Broadway professionals.
The oil spill in the gulf reminds us of how fragile the coast is to weather and human forces. However, After the Storm's significance is its exploration of what happens after disaster has passed, Priddy says.
"In many communities in America today, the economy has been like a tsunami and communities are having to gather together and figure out how to put things back together," he says. Medalia shows that making kids smile for a few hours a day can make a big difference when trying to pick up the pieces.
Film's unique capacity to tell a story makes these two examples of the human experience, in Jerusalem and in New Orleans, powerful to witness, says Priddy.
"It's the way the medium of film is presented to an audience, which in essence is a community who experiences the same story at the same time and then has the opportunity to talk about it afterwards."