In contrast to recent violent
protest at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, a Palestinian and a Jewish
woman from that city have created a 6-minute animated film to help young people
understand and value their differences.
Israeli Shira Avni, 28, says: "I think it's important certainly for kids to see there are no absolutes and there's no one who can't work together with someone who is perceived as their opposite or their enemy." Shira's e-mail address is SAvni@artic.edu.
"Many long-held stereotypes are dispelled once somebody gets to know the real person," says Palestinian Serene El-Haj Daoud, who's 26. Serene receives e-mail at SereneDaoud@hotmail.com.
This has been the experience of those who enter into authentic Dialogue.
Serene and Avni's story of friendship and shared creativity is a model of what is possible with Palestinians and Jews on a larger scale. That is our belief and fondest hope.
We thought this would interest you. -- L&L
Published by The Canadian Press -- Canada's multimedia news agency
Thursday, October 31, 2002
Israeli and Palestinian animators
push for acceptance in
film for students
MONTREAL (CP) Years before hatred exploded into violent protest at Concordia University, an Israeli and a Palestinian quietly became friends and hoped to shake the prejudices of those around them. Shira Avni, 28, and Serene El-Haj Daoud, 26, hope their personal bond will become a symbol of the acceptance that's depicted in an animated film they co-directed about an immigrant girl's experiences in Canada.
From Far Away is the story of a seven-year-old Lebanese girl who struggles to adjust to a new world after being uprooted from her war-torn homeland.
The 6-minute film is based on a book by Robert Munsch. It is part of the Talespinners series of eight short animated films produced by the National Film Board that will be shown to hundreds of Canadian students during the national children's book week, running Nov. 2-9 (2002).
"Every kid goes through awkward moments," Avni said in an interview.
Although she emigrated to Montreal as a toddler from Israel, Avni said she related to the character in From Far Away.
So did Daoud, a Saudi Arabian-born Palestinian refugee who arrived in Canada in 1989. Some of the film's scenes popped out of her own memories of conflict and her first experiences in Canada.
Both women want the film to raise the acceptance levels of Canadian students for those in their classes who may not be able to speak French or English.
The two were among the group of young filmmakers specifically selected to animate children's stories from around the world.
"I think it's important certainly for kids to see there are no absolutes and there's no one who can't work together with someone who is perceived as their opposite or their enemy," Avni said from Chicago where she is studying for a master's degree in animation at the Art Institute of Chicago.
But it's their story of friendship that has garnered as much interest as the film during previous screenings.
How is it possible, they have been asked, that a Jew and an Arab can get along so well, especially while attending Montreal's Concordia University?
Long a hotbed for Middle East tension, the downtown university campus exploded in violent protest last September after demonstrators succeeded in preventing former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from giving a speech.
While their friendship began in the late 1990s during a more hopeful period for Middle East peace, it has raised some awkward glances from family and their respective communities.
"We're in Canada and these things shouldn't matter where you came from," said Daoud, who admitted to having encountered skepticism for being friends with a Jew.
"It should just come down to what your core values are."
Many long-held stereotypes are dispelled once somebody gets to know the real person, she said.
"They are really sister cultures if you just sat down and looked at them," Daoud said of the Jewish and Muslim experiences.
Avni's liberal views about the Palestinian conflict have made acceptance easier, both agree.
She believes the Israeli occupation is only worsening the situation.
"Everyone in the region has the right to live their daily lives as people with dignity," she said.
For more information this Talespinner film, visit the the National Film Board Web site:
A clip from the film can be seen online at: