Over the last decade, in the face of devastating violence and pain, thousands of ordinary people have been stepping forward to end the bloodshed, preserve human rights and promote reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians. Yet even though Palestinians and Israelis who support peace outnumber the militants, their voices are continually drowned out by sensational, explosive headlines. Keenly aware of this gap in media coverage, I assembled a crew of Palestinians, North Americans and Israelis to document a few of these forgotten heroes. After 475 preliminary interviews, 2 years of research and 16 months of production, our multi-national, multi-lingual team selected a handful of subjects from both sides, built unprecedented relations of trust with them, and gained deep access to their lives and work.
Encounter Point tells the story of several Palestinians and Israelis who have sacrificed something deeply precious to them as a result of the conflict. These characters have lost liberty, community, public standing, safety and homes. Some even lost children. Yet all have confronted their anger and grief in order to press for a dignified end to the conflict. As Ali Abu Awwad, one of the main protagonists of the film states, "Sometimes people ask me, 'how can you do this after all you've been through?' But I tell them, 'I don't have to love Israelis to make peace with them, and I'm not asked to forgive the soldier who killed my brother, I will never forgive him.'"
Our subjects' stories are by no means romantic; they face widespread opposition, and at times trip on their own feet. Yet they persevere. We follow them from Telmond to Tulkarem; from a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv to the funeral of a 12-year-old Palestinian girl in Bethlehem, to the first conversation between a former Israeli settler and a former Palestinian prisoner. The film's subjects are at the vanguard of a movement to push Palestinian and Israeli societies to reach a tipping point, forging a new consensus for nonviolence and peace. Perhaps years from now, their actions will be recognized as a catalyst for constructive change in the region.
Shot in Arabic and Hebrew by a team that wholly mirrors the subject matter, Encounter Point is a film about hope, about true courage and, implicitly, about silence – the silence of journalists and politicians who pay little attention to vital Palestinian and Israeli grassroots peace efforts. As Robi Damelin, a bereaved Israeli mother states, "There is no pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, there is pro-solution." Encounter Point moves beyond sensational images and challenges all of us to look for the civic leaders within our midst.
Ronit Avni (2006)