Tuesday, September 9, 2008

TIFF 2008: The Heart of Jenin

The Heart of Jenin (Germany, 2008) by Leon Geller and Marcus Vetter, 89 minutes at AMC Theatre #9

This documentary is heartbreaking although it does leave one with hope. In November 2005, a 12 year old boy named Ahmed Khatib living in Jenin was accidentally shot by Israeli troops who thought he was carrying a gun (he was playing with a toy gun). His father Ismail (pictured left here), a thoughtful and gentle man, had a difficult decision to make. He was asked to donate the boy's organs. As it turned out, the organs would go to Samah, a Druze girl in northern Israel; Menuha, an Orthodox Jewish girl living in Jerusalem, and, Mohamed, a Bedouin boy in the Negev desert (as well as three other recipients not named here).

The documentary reveals Ismail's visits to the three small children, some of whom are too young to understand what has been done for them. Despite the destruction of two businesses and having lived his entire life under Israeli Occupation, being part of the resistance during the first Intifada and spending time in prison, it becomes increasingly important to him that he forge some sort of relationship with the children that received his son's organs.

You feel completely conflicted as you watch the Khatib family dealing with the difficulty of trying to leave Jenin to go to a commemorative ceremony for their son and the obstacles they must face. On the other hand, if there weren't so many elements trying to kill Israelis they wouldn't have to resort to such draconian methods to contain the peace in the occupied territories.

The worst moment of all is watching a father, an Orthodox Jew, matter-of-factly express the wish that the organ had come from a Jew rather than an Arab. And yet one realizes with a glint of compassion that he was asked this question by a news crew as he sat in an emergency room during the transplant at a very stressful time.

There are so many moments like this where you are rankled by the idiotic racism and bigotry and then softened by the recognition of the horrendously difficult times that these people live in.

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