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Promises (2001)

Director: Carlos Bolado, B.Z. Goldberg, Justine Shapiro
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: New Yorker Video
Genre: Documentary, Political & Social Issues, Military, Israel
Running Time: 116 min.
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B.Z. Goldberg, an American filmmaker who was raised in Jerusalem and is fluent in both Hebrew and Arabic, returned to the Middle East to help make this documentary, which chronicles his encounters with seven children between the ages of 11 and 13, some Israeli and some Palestinian, who discuss their political views, their thoughts about the ongoing violence in their homelands and the possibility of a lasting peace, and the impact the aggression has had upon them. Encompassing extremists and moderates on both sides of the fence, the seven youngsters are interviewed individually and then brought together, where their common interests become clear -- as well as the fact that it's quite possible they'll never live together in peace. Co-directed by Goldberg with Justine Shapiro and Carlos Bolado, Promises won the Audience Award at the 2001 Rotterdam Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Staff Pick, March 29, 2005: I originally saw the truly marvelous documentary Promises at San Francisco's Jewish Film Festival a few years ago and then saw it again on the recently released DVD, and found it both times to be nothing less than one of the most moving documentaries of the last few years. It a crucial film, too, given the seemingly never-ending, tragic war between Israelis and Palestinians, and the lack of truth we receive from the evening news and the leaders of both groups. The film depicts both sides of the struggle and the daily violence they all must live with through the eyes of the children, who, sadly, are all susceptible to the propaganda spouted by their parents. Some of them also show enough of an individualist spark to give us all hope, but where they likely would have never crossed paths or acknowledged their counterparts on the "other side," the filmmakers B.Z. Goldberg (who is the on-screen presence), Justine Shapiro and Carlos Bolado took the bold step of bringing them together. The parents of the more open-minded of the Israelis, brothers Yarko and Daniel, warily allow them to accompany the filmmakers to meet the similarly athletically inclined Faraj, a short ride away but many worlds apart, in an eye-opening (for the Israelis and for us) meeting in a Palestinian refugee camp. The gathering is intensely moving, giving us hope for the future even if the headlines often make us feel the hope is short-lived. Promises manages to do what many other documents of the Middle East have not: illuminate without preaching and manipulating. -- Craig Phillips

GreenCine Member Reviews

A Kernel of Hope in a Hopeless Land by talltale November 27, 2004 - 7:43 PM PST
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful
If there's one film (in this case, a documentary) I've ever seen that I want to share with everyone I know (and even those I don't), it's PROMISES. Nominated for an Academy Award a couple of years back, it deals with Israeli and Palestinian children, their lives and ideas, and how these ideas change or cement as they grow. Initially, you meet them separately and learn more about them (and sometimes their families) as the film progresses. After an hour, the filmmakers try to put the kids together. Some are willing, others not. Their meeting is one of the highlights of my movie-going life, and what comes of that meeting--in the original documentary and in the follow-up and Academy Award segments (on the DVD extras)--is alternately upsetting, thoughtful, moving and all too real. The kids mention "hope," which is what there is so little of in this part of the world. On the basis of this film, which is as good a look at the Israel/Palestine problem that I have encountered, there does not appear to be much hope for coming generations. The little bit shown here is a start. May it grow. Meanwhile, I'm going to purchase this film and start circulating it.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 8.38)
55 Votes
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GreenCine's Official 50 Best Documentaries List!
Each of these inspiring documentaries will take you to a world you've never been or tell you a story you've never heard, and deserve a place in the archives. One prerequisite: the films had to be currently available on DVD.
Y'all rock my little world
I have received 300 discs from GC over the past 2 1/2 years, many of which have been recommended by other members. Thanks to all of you who brought these titles to my attention!

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