Rabbi Dennis Eisner and Rabbi Lisa Tzur will introduce this new documentary by acclaimed American-born Israeli producer, Laura Bialis.
Sometimes the documentaries that state Israel’s case most powerfully have no polemics, academics or politicians in them. Instead of dogmatic ideology and the usual lineup of older male talking heads, Rock in the Red Zone, a new film by Laura Bialis, focuses on real people who aren’t right-wing—or left-wing—in fact, the only thing they share is that they were on the receiving end of rocket barrages fired from Palestinians in Gaza over the course of many years, and that for solace, they turned to music.
Like the best films, Rock in the Red Zone raises and deals with serious questions about roots, a person’s sense of belonging, what a country’s responsibilities are to its citizens, and salvation through music. If that description sounds like a visual presentation of a particularly earnest Bruce Springsteen song, that’s because, like Springsteen’s most affecting work, the film forces the viewer to think about those very issues by skillfully weaving a tale with grace, dignity and attention to poignant details, not by pounding them over our heads.
Bialis draws the viewer in through her careful selection of Sderot personalities she chose to focus on—including singer-songwriter Micha Biton whose well-known childhood story is chronicled in the famous Israeli novel El Atzmi, articulate local musician like Avi Vaknin who ran a local music education program called Sderock in a Bomb Shelter, and one of Vaknin’s teenage music students, a wonderfully engaging Hagit Yaso, who three years later went on to win the Kohav Nolad TV competition. By the end of the film, we’ve seen them grow and change and we end up caring about them.
You don’t need to be a music fan to enjoy and feel touched by Rock in the Red Zone. It provides a powerful snapshot of the “real” Israel that shies away from politics but unflinchingly focuses on the effects of politics on the lives of people viewers can’t avoid feeling connected to. Sandwiched between Hamas on the one side and an uncaring government and fellow Israelis on the other, some Sderot residents can’t stand the onslaught of rockets and leave, others have no other place to go.
They all resonate straight to the heart.
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