There's been a recent slate of alternative "settler" storytelling lately.
First, there were the Miley Cyrus parodies made by yours truly, challenging the stereotype of people of Judea and Samaria as religious fanatics, and my novel, The Settler. A reality show on Israel's Channel 10 called "The Settler" follows a journalist who lives beyond the Green Line and his attempts to "settle" into people's lives as their coach. And now, Chen Klein, a young filmmaker at Ariel University, has added a film to what I hope is a budding genre.
Her graduate film, "Nahala (Inheritance)" took home "Best Picture" at Ariel University's graduate screening and award show at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque on March 5, 2014. The camera follows Klein, her husband, and their toddler as they attempt, with internal and external challenges, to build a home in a caravan on a Samarian hilltop.
The film was acquired by YES, Israel's satellite television and is expected to garner critical attention at film festivals.
"Our students come from across the religious, political spectrum, and Chen Klein's film stands out not only for its artistic virtues, but for its daring, refreshing portrayal of such a loaded scene on the political stage," said Eyal Boers, head of Ariel University's Film/TV Track, at the screening.
I caught up with Chen Klein, 22, a few days after her big win.
Why did you choose to study film?
I love film. I'm very connected to it and the industry. I studied photography before studying film. One reason comes from a sense of mission, idealism, to make films that have a unique cultural perspective, not necessarily political, but more religious, value-oriented, softer. Films that give hope, optimism – not merely to entertain.
Did you hope to present "settlers" differently than how they're portrayed in the media?
Usually, news media see the people in Judea and Samaria only in political terms. They live beyond the 'Green Line.' They're anonymous. They have no face. You don't hear from them, only about them, and when you hear from them, they'll focus on the politics, messianism. In art and film, this subject matter practically doesn't exist. And when it does, it's treated very flatly and two-dimensional. You don't see personality. I think it comes from the fact that they really aren't familiar with this world, because the art and film world is influenced by news media, or they have no one who'll sound the voice of the people themselves, so they portray them as they see them. No one really comes out to counter those portrayals.
Was that your intention in making this film?
I start with the story, not with how I'll represent anyone. I'm a filmmaker and I want to tell a good story, and to introduce my viewers to a new reality. The power of film is that it introduces you to a reality you don't know – you can enjoy it, think about it. I think there's power in looking at things very honestly, without trying consciously to say, "it's not like that." I'm looking at the issue straight in the eye, and not wondering if I should do it in a certain way. It's a process. When you don't to uphold the ideal, you're more honest. That breaks the stigma. You actually give it a place that's real and true.
What kind of responses have you gotten?
People are really seeking this story. I've discovered that people see a story that's interesting, special, something they haven't seen before. It's also very human. People can connect to it. The film essentially deals with the search for home. People all over the world seek a place where they can rest their head and belong. It's something everyone can relate to.