United by the small screen, Israelis and Palestinians transcended their divisions this week when “Under the Same Sun,” a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was broadcast simultaneously on Wednesday on Israel’s Channel 2 and the Palestinian Ma'an television stations.
The film, which was produced by an Israeli and directed by a Palestinian, was shot in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem and stars actors from both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Production credit is shared by Amir Harel, and Israeli who worked on the Academy Award-nominated “Paradise Now,” which depicts the preparations of a pair of Palestinian suicide bombers; and Search for Common Ground, an American non-governmental organization that does conflict resolution work.
Set in the near future, it focuses on how two business leaders cope with the unique political and personal challenges posed by operating in societies where there is a strong stigma against working with the “other side.”
Harel commented that he sees the film as a mirror of reality.
“A small part of it is our projection of the possible future. It’s more like a wish that reality would resemble in a way,” he said.
“It’s a fictional story but the underlying issues are real,” Sharon Rosen, co-director of the Jerusalem office of Search for Common Ground, told The Media Line. “We wanted to be able to convey the underlying, the intangibles; to build hope that something like this could happen.”
Leading actor Ali Saliman told The Media Line that he enjoyed working with his Israeli counterpart, adding, “We had never worked together but it felt natural."
'Sensitive topic'“Under the Same Sun” was received positively in the United States and the United Kingdom, where it has already been screened in London, but it’s unclear what the local population of Israelis and Palestinians will think.
Tsvika Kleinman, who already viewed the movie, said it is very realistic.
“As an Israeli, I know for sure it is possible – and already happened in the past, as shown in the movie – to bring hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets and create a movement that would put pressure from the bottom up,“ he told The Media Line. However, Kleinman believes that creating such a grassroots movement is more of a challenge for Palestinians.
A Palestinian businessman from Jerusalem told The Media Line that the film is very close to reality – his reality in particular.
“This topic is very sensitive for us to talk about because there are people who will destroy our reputation,” he said, referring to those who adhere to an anti-normalization with Israel campaign, adding that his company was targeted two years ago when he was accused of working with Israelis. He said it took him a very long time to recover his losses.
A businessman in the Palestinian territories told The Media Line that there are joint business projects between the conflicting sides, but it’s not something that is often publicized. There are a variety of opinions on the Palestinian street about “normalizing” with Israel, but the Palestinian National Authority has not given a public statement for or against such work.
Search for Common Ground’s founder and president, John Marks, hired the Palestinian director and Israeli producer in 2011 after an extensive month of searching for the right team. He hopes that Israelis and Palestinians will realize that most people on both sides want to bring an end to the conflict.
“I still believe that peace is possible,” he said, “and I wanted to make an entertaining dramatic film that showed that. Who knew when we started this project two years ago that there would be active peace talk again taking place?”
Article written by Felice Friedson and Diana Atallah
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line