Directors: Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg, Carlos Bolado
Production co: Promises Film Project
Producers: Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg
Cinematography: Yoram Millo, Ilan Buchbinder
Editor: Carlos Bolado
Sound: Rogelio Villanueva
35mm/In English, Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles
“Seven Palestinian and Israeli
children between the ages of 8 and 13, living in or near Jerusalem, speak with
devastating transparency about their lives, the conflict and the likelihood of
resolution. Several of them carry personal scars. All are thoroughly informed
by the experience and the views of their parents. Their differing explanations
of what is going on in Israel provide sobering insight into the complexity and
intransigence of hostilities. Playing no favourites, the filmmakers have an
obvious rapport with almost all of the children and become eager, as we do, to
introduce their young friends to one another. In the film’s most remarkable and
moving section such a meeting is achieved, and we watch as football and dinner
momentarily override politics. The value of getting to know the enemy could
hardly be more clearly demonstrated.
“Promises is credited to three filmmakers, a non-partisan, non-profit peace project that made the film ‘out of deep concern, pain and passion for the situation in the Middle East’. Their labour of love is also a work of admirable intelligence and taste, which has been winning audience polls at festivals around the world.” — Bill Gosden, New Zealand Film Festival 2001
“Looking through the eyes of seven Israeli and Palestinian children living in and around Jerusalem, Promises provides deeply humanistic insight into the complexities of the Middle East conflict that political analysis or front-line
their fiber. The children tell their stories of growing up amid the conflict with tender matter-of-factness and with frequent glimpses of a more hardened, adult nature than their years would indicate.
“The twins—perhaps the most open-minded of the interviewees—talk of boarding buses in the wake of constant terrorist bombings, warily looking for suspicious characters. A third-generation Palestinian refugee weeps when speaking of letters from her father, a journalist and political activist held in prison for two years without being formally charged or put on trial. Another Palestinian boy recounts seeing his friend shot and killed by soldiers for tossing a stone through a window.
“Backed by an illuminating recap of the events that established the divide, this main body of the film could be more concise. But it remains absorbing as each child reveals his understanding of and at times adherence to extremist positions and the children's varying degrees of openness to considering opposing viewpoints.
“The documentary becomes most interesting when Goldberg convinces the twins to travel with him to Deheishe to meet Faraj, Sanabel and other Palestinian kids, representing the first encounter for any of them with people from the other side. As their day together unfolds, the children quickly forget their differences over a soccer game and a meal, with their eagerness to know each other better revealed in the discussion that follows. In the film's most touching moment, Faraj, who previously was the most skeptical about the encounter, breaks down with pragmatic sadness about the impracticality of maintaining friendships from opposite sides of a military checkpoint.
“That sadness is echoed in a more poignant way when the kids are interviewed again two years later in 2000. Some profess to want increased interaction with a view to peace and mutual respect, others have detached themselves from concerns of peace, still others have reinforced their intransigent position. What the epilogue conveys most strongly, however, is that as they leave behind childhood innocence and adopt the more rigid thinking of adults, the distance between them has widened.” — David Rooney, Variety
“From 1995 to 1998, during the brief period between the Intifada and the current turmoil in Israel, the filmmakers spent time with seven Palestinian and Israeli children, all of them intelligent and articulate and living within 20 minutes of each other. The result is a documentary that captures, without melodrama, their efforts to come to grips with the religious and national conflicts that have shaped their lives. Included are Yarko and Daniel, twins from a liberal Israeli family; Sanabel, a third generation Palestinian refugee and the daughter of an imprisoned journalist; Moishe, a right-wing settler; and Faraj who, at five, lost a friend to an Israeli bullet. All of them strive to express their own ideas of justice with an endearing honesty, but it is their personalities—the wit of the twins, Sanabel’s lively spirit—which bring this documentary to life. In one of the film’s many delightful moments, Shlomo, a serious and self-possessed Orthodox Israeli, is coaxed into a burping contest by a Palestinian boy. Eventually, several of these children, Israeli and Palestinian, are brought together, and it is in this segment that the film truly lives up to its title. Promises, however, can engender sadness as well as hope. Children are often unaware of how difficult it can be to fulfill them.” — Pamela Troy, San Francisco Film Festival 2001
“This well-crafted film was shot during a period of relative calm from 1997 to summer 2000, just prior to the outbreak of an intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in the fall of that year. An American raised in Jerusalem who speaks both Hebrew and Arabic, B.Z. Goldberg (who co-directed with Justine Shapiro and Carlos Bolado) acts as an onscreen interlocutor and later mediator with the subjects, most of whom live within a 20-minute radius in a fiercely divided city and have little direct knowledge of each other's lives.
“Aged between 11 and 13 during initial interviews, the principal subjects include Yarko and Daniel, two secular Israeli twins; Moishe, a right-wing Jew; angel-faced hard-line Hamas supporter Mahmoud; Shlomo, the ultra-orthodox son of an American rabbi; and Sanabel and Faraj, two Palestinians living in the Deheishe refugee camp.