Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: A Common Goal

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 14th Annual Other Israel Film Festival runs virtually December 3rd-10th, 2020.

A Common Goal
Directed by Shuki Guzik
Ticket Information

The Israeli national anthem, Hatikva, includes a mention of the “Jewish soul” and the way in which the country serves as a fulfillment of a centuries-long dream to return to a homeland. Though it was founded as a Jewish state, Israel serves as home to a diverse population. The primary conflict known to the international community is between Israelis and Palestinians, but there exists also a discord with the Arab Israeli citizens of the country, who consider it their home as well but cannot relate to many of the defining qualities that categorize it as explicitly Jewish since they are not in fact Jewish.

The Israeli national soccer team currently has more Arab players than ever before, including its first-ever Muslim captain. While many fans are supportive of the team and hopeful that its latest roster will lead it to unprecedented victory, others are unhappy with the idea that a team that was predominantly Jewish for most of its history is no longer that way. At games all over Europe, press outlets have started reporting on the athletes in Arabic, giving these team members an opportunity to represent their communities and feel just as much a sense of national pride as anyone else who feels Israel’s values align more completely with theirs.

This documentary smartly spends the entirety of its brief fifty-two-minute runtime focused on the Arab athletes on the team, offering very minimal input from those who might more typically be in the spotlight. They all share what is important to them and what they have experienced growing up as members of minorities to then become stars whose accomplishments aren’t as widely or consistently celebrated as those of their other Jewish teammates. They speak openly and unapologetically, recounting discrimination and difficulties encountered along the way.

It’s even more interesting to examine the subject of this movie at a film festival hosted in America, where players not behaving as expected during the singing of the national anthem has been cause for enormous controversy and condemnation from those who feel that it shows a lack of respect or patriotism. Each non-Jewish member of the team explains why they don’t sing about having a Jewish soul, and, despite the challenges, there are positive relationships among the players and benefits of being part of something cooperative and fulfilling. Sports enthusiasts may find even more here in this invigorating portrait of a system that is far from perfect but is on its way toward more inclusion and progress, not to mention a better standing in the league.


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