Israel vs Israel

Israel vs Israel
by Malcolm L. Rigsby

“Opens the mind and cries out to question the role of politics and nationalism which often play a diabolical role in developing relationships between human beings!”

Subject: Narratives from four Israeli Activists seeking peace and better lives for all citizens of Israel and Palestine.

Year: 2010

Arguably the dynamics of this film have been modified by the effects of operation “Pillar of Defense (October, 2012 – August, 2014).  It may be that the setting of the film is now a bit dated and that the sentiments of those interviewed are now different.  However in examining the aspirations which spring-board this film one must not be too hasty in discounting it value to time.  Admittedly, the events of the most recent invasion of Gaza which began in October 2012 and arguably lasted until the August 24, 2014 may have strengthened the desire of many Israelis (citizen and politician alike) to seek further occupation of Palestine.  However, it is imperative to note that the same events have energized many other Israelis to staunchly demand a solution for peace and mutual respect that both embraces a withdrawal of Israel from Palestine and terminating the occupation.  From this point of view Israel vs Israel contributes much.  The philosophy and goals expressed in the film remind us of the aspirations of our own Colonial-American-Colonial who cried to England for humanity.  In our own history it is a cry that divides.  Like our own colonial roots that created two groups of “patriot” and “traitor” we see this same portrayal in Israel today.  Accordingly the narratives unfold; the everyday lives of people as they seek dignity and humanity.

The director, Terje Carlsson takes us on a narrative journey as he interviews some very different Israeli citizens.  Are they the true patriots or are they the traitors of Israel?  Common to all is their desire for a solution that will leave all people, Israeli and Palestinian, with dignity and self-respect.  Artfully, often without specifying the point to be made, it is the “narrative” of each individual interviewed that allow us a hermeneutic evaluation of what it is that draws these people to a common cause for peace.

Israel vs Israel opens the mind and cries out to question the role of politics and nationalism which often play a diabolical role in developing relationships between human beings.

Carlsson offers us a succinct and forthright analysis of how the state is often manipulated by a powerful minority citizenry and in return it is the state that manipulates the nation to serve the goals of the powerful few.  Zionism, politics, nationalism, humanity and citizenry intertwine throughout the film, but Carlsson through interviews and news footage segments each of these concepts and allows a clear look at what drives the divide between Israeli and Palestinian.  The viewer will be impressed with the excellent sound and footage editing.  The Choices Video website provides a guidebook for the film.  The guide provides an excellent time line, synopsis of the film and poses a set of thoughtful questions that will assist the leader of a group discussion.  An official Trailer for the film is viewable on YouTube and the video may be purchased at AgainstTheOccupation.

Review by: Malcolm L. Rigsby, J.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Department of Sociology Human Services and Criminal Justice, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas,

Produced By: Terje Carlsson and Ekedalen Produktion

Directed by: Terje Carlsson

Distributed By: ChoicesVideo.netAgainst The Occupation

Format: DVD, English, Arabic, Hebrew

Running Time: 58 minutes

Color/B&W: Color

Rating: Highly Recommended.

Audience Level: Jr. High, High School, College and General Adult.


Public Liberties and Human Rights Award – Al Jazeera Documentary Fest 2011

President of the Festival Special Award One Shot – ISFF Festival 2011

Turkish Radio and Television Documentary Awards 2011

Tags: Against the Occupation, Israel, Israeli Occupation, Occupied Palestine, Palestine, Gaza, Israel Palestine, Hebron, Ramallah, Settlers, Occupation, Zionism, Yuhuda Shaul, Ronny Perlman, Arik Ascherman, Jonathan Pollack, Terje Carlsson

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Rumi Turning Ecstatic

Personally meaningful and life focusing!
by Malcolm L. Rigsby

Subject: Travel one seeker’s quest for understanding of life and the Divine and experience a journey into the music, life and teachings of the mystic poet Mevlana Jelalludin Rumi.

Year: 2005

The human being has an ego, a heart, a soul and it journeys through life seeking to identify that thirst.  It is this quest that keeps our path focused on the Divine.  Our journey with Tina Petrovo begins with her quest for recovery of soul, spirit and body.  From her initial inquiry into spiritual and personally healing she is drawn into a quest for understanding; a life search through the poetry of Rumi.  Is it a quest with a successful ending?

The format of this film is built upon Tina Petrova’s reflective narrative questioning and seeking healing, humanity and The Divine.  But, the film is also a historical account of the life of and tradition that is growing upon the teachings of Rumi.  Additionally, the film offers an interpretive story of Rumi and his capacity to seek the Divine, love and humanity through reflective visions of life, all the time seeking to live life according to his visions of life.  Throughout the film historians and poets share their insight as they too seek out life and love through living their own life as exemplified by Rumi. Interspersed interludes include hauntingly peaceful and mesmerizing Sufi music.  Is Tina’s thirst for spiritual and the Divine; her desire to understand self and soul a success?  I will leave you to make your own conclusion.

Rumi: Turning Ecstatic is a truly enjoyable and informative film.  It is starkly shot, editing is excellent and the music added a meditating quality that enhances and assists the viewer to move right into the setting.  The film includes a study guide on the life of Rumi that is available online.  The DVD provides several special features that include some select poetry, artwork and a short but informative biography on the life of Rumi.  For more preliminary information watch the film Trailer and an interview with the Director which is sponsored by the film distributor, Choices Video.  The Choices Video website also provides a complimentary copy of the Guidebook which provides background data on Rumi and web links.

Review by: Malcolm L. Rigsby, J.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Department of Sociology Human Services and Criminal Justice, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas,

Produced By: Tina Petrova, Stephen Roloff and Visionary Media Inc., Radiant Media Inc.

Directed by: Tina Petrova

Distributed By:

Format: DVD, English

Running Time: 48 minutes

Color/B&W: Color

Rating: Highly Recommended.

Audience Level: Jr. High, High School, College and General Adult.


Tags: Rumi, Mevlana Jelalludin Rumi, Sufi, Poetry, Inter-religious, culture, Dervishes, Twirling Dervishes, Whirling Dervishes, mysticism, Islam, mystic Islam, Camille Helminski, Kabir Helminski, Nader Khalili, Andrew Harvey, Coleman Banks

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Tears of Gaza

Here is a link to my review of the award winning documentary ‘Tears of Gaza’. Listed at the Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO) database hosted by the libraries of the University of Buffalo. Tears of Gaza

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Times and Winds / Bes Vakit Film Review


Title: Times and Winds/ Bes Vakit

Subject: Children grow up in a world of religious and cultural tensions.

Year: Turkish Release: 2006; English Release: 2008

Produced By: Ömer Atlay

Distributed By: Atlantik Film

Format: DVD, Turkish with English Subtitles

Reviewed by: Malcolm L. Rigsby, J.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Department of Sociology, Human Services and Criminal Justice, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas,

Running Time:  111 minutes

Color/B&W: Color

Rating: Highly Recommended.  5 of 5 Stars

Directed by: Raha Erdem

Starring: Ozen Ozkan, Ali Bey Kayali, Elit Işcan

Audience Level: High School, College and General Adult (some graphic language and sexual connotation).        

           Toronto International Film Festival, Official Selection, 2006
           Rome Film Festival, 2006
           Pusan International Film Festival, 2006
           Istanbul International Film Festival, National Competition, 2006
               Best Turkish Film
               FIPRESCI award
           Adana Golden Boll Film Festival, National Competition, 2006
               Best Turkish Film
               Best Supporting Actor (Bülent Emin Yarar)
               Best Promising Actor (Ali Bey Kayali)
               Best Promising Actress (Elit Işcan)
           Int. Mediterranean Film Festival Montpellier, Competition, 2006


It was King Solomon that said that everything has a time and a season.  So it goes in this rural Turkish village in the mountains along the sea.  The three main characters, Ömer (Ozen Ozkan), Yakup (Ali Bey Kayali), and Yildiz (Elit Işcan) are adolescents seeking to find their place in a world controlled by religion, custom, and nature.  Like an iron cage the characters move about freely within the cage, but are still confined by its boundaries. 

This film portrays the experiences of growing up and the oppositions and tensions that exist between generations who on the one hand desire to stay true to their community but at once seek to expand their own understanding of life.  As one grandmother in the film says emphatically about men; as boys they are sweet, but they all grow into men that hate the world.  Like the seasons and the wind time ever advances and affects our lives.  Although we focus on the lives of the children in this film we also note the continued tensions experienced by the adults, particularly the men who must continue to wrest with the extended family, their relationships with their children and their wives. 

The music scores in this film will no doubt set the ominous tone for an enjoyable and very thoughtful experience.  The film moves very slowly for the most part and for this reason I would normally rate it lower as a must see.  However, due to the deep subject matter and the excellent way the director and editors brought out intrigue I compensate for the slow pace.  Although the film supplies moments of humor, suspense and young love; if you are looking for a thriller, romance, or a comedy look elsewhere.  If you wish to enjoy beautiful screen shots, nature in its splendor and deeply meaningful expressionism you must see Times and Winds.  Many scenes in this film returned me to my childhood and adolescence as well as seeing my own child mature.  Like the characters we see all sorts of realities.  We see the young Yakip who is in love with his teacher, Ömer who hates his father for a reason never truly expressed, and Yildiz the girl moving from childhood to womanhood.  With each day and challenge we see each child grow up and adapt their own understanding of their unique culture and life. 

Film Website Trailer.

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Be Quiet, (2005) A film by Sameh Zoabi

(2005), a film by Sameh Zoabi

(2005), a film by Sameh Zoabi

Title: Be Quiet

Rating: Five of Five Stars

Subject: A young strong willed son and his father travel home from the west bank in Palestine to their home in Nazareth.

Year: 2005

Produced By: Sameh Zoabi

Format: DVD, English, Hebrew and Arabic with English Subtitles

Reviewed by: Malcolm L. Rigsby, Department of Sociology and Human Services, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas,

Running Time: 18 minutes

Color/B&W: Color

Rating: Recommended:

Directed by: Sameh Zoabi

Audience Level: Jr. High School, High School, College and General Adult.

Cannes Film Festival, Cinefondation Selection 3rd prize, (2005)
Best Narrative Short Film, IFP Market, NYC,
Best Student Short, Aspen Short Festival
Best Arab Short Film, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris
Golden Prix, Carthage Film Festival
Bronze Muhr Award, Dubai Film Festival
Jerusalem Film Festival


Be Quiet should resound with parents.  A phrase that is all too common to both children and their parents serves to exemplify a people’s understanding of identity in relation to the “other”.  In this film set in Israel and Palestine we find Mahmmood (Mahmud ABU-JAZI) and Ibrahim (Alaa AGHBARIYA) traveling in a Palestinian taxi from the funeral a deceased relative back home to their own home in Nazareth.  Regionally this is a challenging drive for Palestinians who are either resident of Israel or of Palestine (West Bank).  Mahmmood has left his Israeli registered car on the Israeli side of the border and finds that now a group of Israeli settlers have been shooting at Palestinians.  Palestinian police won’t allow the taxi to pass their check point due to its green Palestinian license plate; to do so would invite a sniper’s bullet.  When the police realize that Mahmmood’s care bears yellow Israeli plates they allow him and Ibrahim to pass: “They won’t shoot at you, you have a yellow license plate!”  But there is more to this issue of identity that emerges from the back to the foreground in this gripping film.  We are drawn in by the dialogue between Ibrahim and his father.  Ibrahim has been asking questions since the funeral conclusion and their departure from Jenin: “What did Uncle die from?”  Mahmmood has not told him that he evidently was killed.  Nor are we the viewer given this fact.  We only begin to realize the truth, that Uncle was shot and killed when we see his blood on the black and white keffiyeh that Ibrahim has smuggled in his back pack.  It is at that point we realize that there is more to Uncle’s death than mere illness.  We see in Ibrahim his resounding and resolute inquiry into the identity of what it is to be Palestinian.  “But we are Palestinian” he responds to his father when the Mahmmood explains why some cars have yellow plates and some have green.  It is in Ibrahim that we see a determined personality, one which rejects being generally classified by another as “something” other than acceptable.  He also questions and rejects his father’s complacency in accepting the rigors of life imposed upon him by the Israeli authority.

The film is more than entertaining or political; it is an examination of what is otherwise often called the generation gap.  It is the question of what is right and what is wrong about the past that each generation must determine as it comes to age and more so, what the current generation soon to be the past, must re-evaluate as it contemplates its own status quo and its future.

It is with hopes that the director Zoabi continues this short film project and allows it to evolve into a full length feature film.  As a viewer seeking personal enjoyment I am fulfilled.  As a professor of sociology interested in human rights I found the questions and potential turning points posed in this film intriguing.  As a traveler to Israel and Palestine as well as other parts of the regional setting I find the film believable and realistic.  Zoabi will not disappoint you, but will leave you desiring more.  Mahmud ABU-JAZI delivers a stunning portrayal of a dismayed parent who wishes the best for his child yet is perplexed by his son’s strong will to find out who he is both individually and socially.  He fears for his son’s future, but as reflected in his smiles and comments he sees a hope for a better life through his son’s future.  Alaa AGHBARIYA is convincing, serious and realistic as a young actor.  No doubt in my mind, you will enjoy this starkly realistic film.

Tags: Activism, Social Relations, Politics, National Identity, Israel/Palestine, Human Rights, Generational Understandings of Identity

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Using BART & MUNI in San Francisco

Using BART & MUNI in San Francisco.

via Using BART & MUNI in San Francisco.

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San Francisco July 2012 Day 1

San Francisco July 2012 Day 1.

via San Francisco July 2012 Day 1.

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Forbidden to Wander (Mane’ Tajawwul) & Habibi, by Susan Youssef

Experiences of an Arab American woman who travels to the West Bank and Gaza to meet and realize her identity and love.

Forbidden to Wander

A bright face, creative mind, and exceptional persistence culminate in Susan Youssef, director of “Forbidden to Wander”, and “Habibi.”
A must see!

In early spring 2011, I became acquainted with a new film listed as “the first fiction feature film set in Gaza in over fifteen years”. The film Habibi is a story of a couple’s love in a state where they are “forbidden to wander”. Unable to be physically one, they must devise means by which to unite in spirit and love. As I researched Habibi I read that the young director, Susan Youssef, began work on the film in 2002. Through her persistence, eight years of diligent filmmaking has materialized in the soon to release film Habibi. Further, in an effort to reach her ancestral roots and to better understand the restrictions placed on the people of the West Bank and Gaza she had traveled there in 2002. Youssef did not go alone; she took her professional camera! In the West Bank and Gaza, she traveled camera in hand, reflecting upon life for lovers trapped in a land where those who fall in love are constantly under curfew and observation. The result of her 2002 trip was the short film Mane’ Tajawwul translated Forbidden to Wander.

Film students will find this film an excellent preparatory tool. Class discussion may develop around Youssef’s filming techniques, her trials and tribulations as a novice director, her undaunted persistence and want to make the film or her practical challenges in dealing with the actors and peripheral groups or onlookers. Richly deep discussions may evolve, as viewers perceive what Susan learns about her field of endeavor and how she must reflexively adjust and stay undaunted. Finally, while Forbidden to Wander offers several valuable points of departure for debate and critique, it more importantly shows that while good filmmaking is often difficult and filled with obstacles, it is truly rewarding and achievable to those involved. Beyond this, filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers, offer venues for society to find out news, and to understand political, cultural and social issues. At a March 16, 2011 Gonzaga University screening of Forbidden to Wander (with select scenes from Habibi), Youssef remarks that when she arrived in Palestine in 2002 she lacked direction in envisioning Forbidden to Wander. She admits the film was a “student work.” However, this student designation also establishes it firmly as an inspirational learning tool for future and established filmmakers. One might say that its weakness becomes its strength. Susan Youssef is a true talent in independent filmmaking. Forbidden to Wander has screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Whether viewing Forbidden to Wander for personal enjoyment, reflection on how people around the world live, as a source of education, or as an exercise in how to use strategy to direct and produce your own film, Forbidden to Wander is an excellent choice.

Forbidden to Wander may be viewed as a foundation for both Youssef as a person and director, and her new feature film Habibi. With Habibi scheduled to open fall 2011, I suggest that viewers may appreciate and enhance the experience of a love story through viewing both films in tandem. Watch this young, persistent, creative director. She is sure to have a bright future. Susan is recognized by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the 2010 “25 New Faces” to filmmaking.

*Photo, compliment of Susan Youssef.

Malcolm L. Rigsby is a faculty member in the department of sociology at Henderson State University, Arkansas.  He is completing his Ph.D. abd, at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas.  In 1979 he received his B.A.T. from Sam Houston State University, in History and Education with a minor in Sociology.  He holds his J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law (1989) and is a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Texas.  He is active in the independent review of documentary film.

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Budrus; by Julia Bacha and JustVision

Separation of Identity.   

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”.

              ~ Robert Frost, The Mending Wall




Don’t miss Budrus!  A visualization of Israeli-Palestinian barriers, dialogue, and cooperative activism.

There is an old saying that goes something like this, “good fences make good neighbors.”  Perhaps Robert Frost is best known for his use of the proverb in his poem The Mending Wall (1914).  Logically, a fence may help parties visualize a recognized and accepted boundary line.  Fences may enhance relationships by simply keeping unintended, as well as intended, encroachments upon a neighbor from occurring.  However, fences may have negative connotations.  A fence may limit the free exercise of natural rights.  It may become a wall, where one party excludes another party from equal ingress and egress to property, free social intercourse, and self-determination.  As Frost so aptly points out, “there is something in nature that inherently dislikes a wall.”  Frost supports the premise that while fences do have positive uses to protect the person and property, they may become walls affecting the potential for interaction and cooperation.  In short, they may become barriers to meaningful communication.

Anyone who has visited Israel and traveled to the West Bank will surely admit that the separation wall or security fence, whichever you prefer to call it, is an ugly sight.  It snakes its way through the Israeli-Palestinian hills and valleys.  In some places it is concrete covered with graffiti.  In other places it is mesh and razor wire.  It disrupts family life, work, school, medical attention, and travel.  As in Frost’s poem, many people support the wall calling it a legitimate means by which to protect life and property, while others call it illegitimate occupation that oppresses and ostracizes life and property.  Herein lies the crux of Budrus; is there a way to balance these needs?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have reviewed the film Budrus several times.  Each time I have pondered various aspects of this film.  To my amazement, I find new things to consider each time.  The film’s message seems clear on three points.  First, that Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people.  Second, that the wall is a means to secure Palestinian land that has become occupied by settlers.  Third, the separation is designed to uproot the occupied people from their lands, villages, schools, homes, and livelihoods, much of which is agricultural.  Director Julia Bacha inspires me.  She presents a definite pro-Palestinian point of view, tempered by interviews with border police and IDF persons.  Her message is that “cooperative activism” can work, even if only one step at a time.

Bacha centers the film around the village of Budrus.  Like many villages of the West Bank, Budrus was scheduled for the proximate construction of the separation/security wall.  It is a village of about 1,500 people, its livelihood centered on its olive production.  The fight against construction of the wall has been lived out in many West Bank villages.  Villagers have fought to try to save their lands.  Faced with modern military weapons and bulldozers each has lost to the construction of the wall.  However, in Budrus, an old type of solidarity was used to fight the wall.   With bulldozers in sight, the villagers, headed by a local citizen Ayed Morrar, sought to carry out a nonviolent protest.  As the events unfold, we see the birth of a call for nonviolent coöperation among the Palestinian people.  This call is not just a male driven social-political movement.  As it evolved, it attracted the involvement of women.  The IDF and border police are stunned.  Did the protest remain peaceful?  Did the effort gain support from some unlikely members of the regional community?  What was the response of the IDF, border police, and the Israeli government?  You will have to watch this film to answer these questions for yourself.   

Regardless your own conclusions about the film and its message you will have the opportunity to listen to points of view that are not often spoken of in the media today.  For this reason alone, I find this film noteworthy.  The production and editing are very good.  The video is stark, the music creatively captures the mood, and the audio is clear and graphically complements the photography.   Perhaps one reason I viewed the film several times is that the film packages a great deal of information into its 81 minute running time.  For this reason, viewers may wish to view it at least twice.  Nonetheless, filmmaker Julia Bacha is to be commended for this undertaking.  The Just Vision webpages for Budrus provide abundant resources about the project, Just vision, education guides, and add screening guides.  These materials will enhance any group screening activity and help facilitate discussion.  This film may be purchased at TypeCast Releasing.  An excellent sponsored Trailer is available on YouTube

Director:          Julia Bacha

Producers:        Ronit Avni, Julia Bacha, & Rula Salameh

Released:         JUST VISION             

Awards:           This film has numerous awards.  For a full list of awards, see the Distributor’s link below.

Distribution:     TYPECAST Releasing

                          JUST VISION

 Year:                2009

 Language:        Arabic, Hebrew, English, w/ English sub-titles.

Malcolm L. Rigsby is a faculty member in the department of sociology at Henderson State University, Arkansas.  He is completing his Ph.D.(abd), at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas.  In 1979 he received his B.A.T. from Sam Houston State University, in History and Education with a minor in Sociology.  He holds his J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law (1989) and is a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Texas.  He is active in the independent review of documentary film.

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The Zionist Story (Full Documentary)

The Zionist Story, an independent film by Ronen Berelovich, is the story of ethnic cleansing, colonialism and apartheid to produce a demographically Jewish State.  Complements of Kanan48 Blog at WordPress

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