Saturday, November 16, 2019

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Breaking Bread

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.

Breaking Bread
Directed by Beth Elise Hawk
Festival Information

“Breaking bread” is a term used to signify the literal ripping of bread that starts a meal in many cultures, but it also has a metaphorical meaning that references coming together, usually done over food. People need to eat, and that can often be a common ground. The dinner table is also known as a place where those who don’t agree sometimes gather for family or holiday meals, and where politics can be aired in a way that can truly disrupt the mood. Yet expressing a shared love for cuisine and good eating can be an entirely positive experience if approached in the right way.

After Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel became the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s MasterChef, she decided to start an Arab food festival in Haifa. Among the goals are to pair Jewish and Arab chefs, as well as to place Jewish chefs at Arab restaurant and Arab chefs at Jewish restaurants. Through her work, she helps people from different cultures realize that they have more in common than they think. This joyful exploration of food captures the collaborative energy that cuisine can help create while exploring the conversations, both positive and negative, that emerge as a result of people from different backgrounds talking to each other.

This film joins fellow Other Israel Film Festival entry “Abe” as an optimistic presentation of coexistence centered on food. This documentary features many appetizing shots of food and explanations of what goes into the recipe, both in terms of actual ingredients and historical context. Hearing from each of the chefs and other participants in this festival is inspirational and enticing, presenting a variety of stories about their upbringing, traditions, and how they came to be so enthusiastic about food.

The people showcased in this film aren’t shy about sharing their opinions and talking openly to the camera. A married Jew and Arab express how they don’t discuss politics and how they celebrate whatever holidays come along regardless of religion. It’s not a film, however, that pretends conflict doesn’t exact at all, as evidenced by an examination of the Israeli salad by chefs who believe it is actually a traditional Arabic salad, and liken changing its name to presuming that an egg roll served in a non-Chinese restaurant isn’t Chinese. This film isn’t as light as it could be, providing a hearty serving of appealing food and worthwhile strides towards peace and communication in a place where that’s not always the goal of every person.


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