Held over at Lincoln Plaza cinema after strong reviews
Rated 100 at Rotten Tomatoes, praise from Times and Voice
Where the Holocaust and the Palestinian Exile meet
After a well attended release in Manhattan, the new documentary The Ruins of Lifta has been held over for another week, which seems especially timely as the funeral of the most arms oriented yet peacemaking president of Israel, Shimon Peres, proceeds.
Here is our review of this remarkable film:
The Ruins of Lifta – Where the Holocaust and Nakba Meet: An unusually rich and understanding exploration of the painful past and threatened future of Lifta, the last ruins standing of the 1948 forced removal of 700,000 Arabs from over 800 villages to make way for an independent Israel, personalized in a moving face-to-face meeting of two good people on either side of al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”)
Sins of the past and present
Deep humanitarianism is the style of this well constructed, caring and penetrating documentary about the two sides of Israel’s first but still festering war atrocity, the Palestinian Nakba (national disaster) of forced exile of 700,000 Arabs from as many as 800 villages in Israel’s 1948 war of independence, with its iron fist policy against return, as New York filmmakers Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky follow Daum in his personal odyssey to escape his Orthodox Jewish family’s one sided views and visit Israel to explore for himself the true character of Palestinians and their experience in the ongoing dispute since 2005 over The Ruins of Lifta, a vivid model of the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since Lifta is the only one of the evacuated Arab villages whose ruins have not yet been replaced with Israeli settlement, whose crumbling walls with stones quarried and built by the hands of its Arab inhabitants and holes blasted in its roofs to prevent return still stand as mute witness to political violence long ago and since which has left so many torn from their ancestral homes and still yearning to go back, a predicament here personalized by Menachem’s meetings with the poetic and dignified Lifta refugee Yacoub Adeh who leads the Palestinian movement to at least preserve Lifta as a memorial and defend it from an Israeli plan to develop the historically significant valley, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, though only if the Israeli government agrees not to develop it, and in the person to person rapprochement Menachem achieves in the moving climax to their film, when he introduces his friend and Holocaust survivor the lively 85 year old Dascha Rittenberg from Manhattan to Jacoub and both clash over whether one great anguish justifies another, but as they tread the paths of Lifta’s ruins together, eventually agree that peace would be served by making Lifta a memorial to a past where many Jews and Arabs once lived in harmony and an inspiration to a shared future, a small but meaningful victory for the notably humane spirit of Daum, whose equally distinguished preceding documentary Hiding and Seeking was on a similar theme of broadening the views of his two sons by taking them to Poland to visit the families of the farmers who hid Jews during World War II at the risk of their own lives, and to see young Christian Poles renovating Jewish cemeteries, both films a gentle but penetratingly effective counter to Israel’s policy of enforced enroachment on Palestinian territory, with yet another expansion in the news this week. – AL
The Ruins of Lifta will be premiering on Friday, September 23, 2016 at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, New York (and in Los Angeles a month later, in Laemmle Theatres on October 28, 2016)
The mega-narratives underlying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are pitted against each other by a Holocaust survivor and a Nakba refugee who meet in the haunting ruins of Lifta, the only Arab village emptied in 1948 that has not been completely destroyed or repopulated by Jews.
Trailer: The Ruins of Lifta – Trailer
Lifta is the only Arab village abandoned in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that has not been completely destroyed or repopulated by Jews. Its ruins are now threatened by an Israeli development plan that would convert it into an upscale Jewish neighborhood. Discovering that his parents’ Holocaust experiences may have distorted his views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Menachem–the filmmaker and an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn–sets out to establish a personal relationship with a Palestinian. He meets Yacoub, who was expelled from Lifta and now leads the struggle to save the haunting ruins of his village from Israeli plans to build luxury villas on the site. Learning that Lifta was once a place where Jews and Arabs got along, Menachem joins Yacoub’s campaign in the hopes that Lifta can serve as a place of reflection and reconciliation. This sets up a climactic encounter between a Holocaust survivor and a Nakba refugee amidst the ruins of Lifta.
Menachem, Dasha and Yacoub: Human contact – the only way political narratives and emotions can be brought together in mutual understanding
“Lifta’s Ruins succeeds as a personally honest and politically provocative documentary. It makes me think of the wonderful line that Jean Renoir speaks in his film Rules of the Game, ‘There’s only one terrible thing in this world, that everyone has his reasons.’” – Annette Insdorf, Columbia University Film Professor, author of Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust
“A personal, self-questioning encounter with the myths of history that measures the abyss between Palestinians and Jews, and between the two contending nations and peace; “a site of memory” whose history has for too long been erased; a profoundly searching and moving inquiry into the collective and personal past of Arabs and Jews; an ethical testimony marked by visual beauty and emotional poignancy, and a place where the ongoing tragedy, of Israel/Palestine continues to be reenacted.” – Marc Kaminsky, author of Shadow Traffic
“A painful, powerful and problematic film that dares to go into the ruins of a Palestinian village strategically situated on the road to Jerusalem and the conflicting claims of memories that divide Jews and Palestinians. It boldly believes that the commonality of our collective humanity can heal wounds and bridge divisions, a message that is all the more urgent because it is all the more absent in the world today.” – Michael Berenbaum, author After Tragedy and Triumph
“To the great credit of its creators, The Ruins of Lifta offers no pat dialogue-based solution to the crises of the region.” – George Robinson, The Jewish Week
“A vital study of loss and memory. Grounded in the art of listening, ‘The Ruins of Lifta’ builds a powerful, personal, political conversation between Palestinians and Israelis looking to live differently. The result is necessary viewing.” – Diana Clarke, Village Voice
“An achingly poignant documentary that investigates a debate in which dueling narratives collide.” – Daniel M. Gold, The New York Times
Built by the hands of those who lived in Lifta before 1948, many of the houses were substantial investments in time and place whose memories are as real as ever in the minds of those who fled
“By turns inspiring and dispiriting, ‘The Ruins of Lifta’ offers a muscular example of the ability of documentaries to make the political intensely personal.” – Ella Taylor, NPR
“To the great credit of its creators, ‘The Ruins of Lifta’ offers no pat dialogue-based solution to the crises of the region. Guardedly hopeful.” – George Robinson, The Jewish Week
“Provocative…allows the ambiguity to surface through interviews that reflect a range of heartfelt experiences and interpretations…visually stunning and packs an emotional wallop.” – Simi Horwitz, Film Journal International
Yacoub Odeh, Dasha Rittenberg and Menachem Daum walk the path of peace in the deserted village