Friday, November 15, 2019

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Comrade Dov

I’m delighted to be returning for the seventh time to cover the Other Israel Film Festival, which features a diverse crop of Israeli and Palestinian cinema and is hosted by the JCC Manhattan. The 13th Annual Other Israel Film Festival takes place November 14th-21st, 2019.

Comrade Dov
Directed by Barak Heymann
Festival Information

In politics, those who get noticed most either adhere strictly to conventional positions or deviate considerably from them. It’s not always a badge of honor, especially for those who don’t agree with what someone advocates, and may lead to a difficult career that can include many obstacles on the path to substantial achievement. For those who continue to persevere and fight against a status quo, the journey can be rewarding, filled with impactful milestones that represent important work in support of their passions on behalf of those they most believe require a voice in government.

Dov Khenin was elected to Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, in 2006 as a member of the national communist party. During his time in office, Dov worked tirelessly for communities he felt were underserved and lacked representation, including Arabs and Palestinians that he saw being treated unfairly by the country. His expression of support for peace is met with skepticism by many, including those who see him either as too left-leaning or too accepting of an Israeli occupation, yet he remains an ally of many groups, determined to help all those he sees in need and speak his voice at every possible opportunity.

Dov is a figure who doesn’t try to hide what he believes, seen in one piece of archive footage sitting next to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and remaining silent while everyone else in the room sings the national anthem. He is more than eager to explain his position on any issue, including that one, noting that he feels that it’s not right for him to sing about the Jewish heart when it can’t be similarly sung by Arab residents of the country. There are certainly those that don’t like him, yet he is warmly received by some surprising parties who respect his commitment to what he believes in above all else.

This film, which offers a short seventy-five-minute profile of this politician, zeroes in on several meetings and events to best illustrate Dov’s uphill battle and his resilience. It also explores the difficulty he faces even from those more closely aligned with him, like a Palestinian interviewee who believes that he is too Israeli and too white to properly represent her, and that his mere holding of a position within the Israeli government is too passive for him to truly be promoting peace. This film offers an uncompromising portrait of a politician who is willing to speak with anyone, no matter how they feel, a welcome rarity in today’s world.


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