Arna’s Children

Arna’s Children

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Arna Mer Khamis was born into a Zionist family but went on to marry a Palestinian Arab in the 1950s before moving to Jenin in the West Bank. It was there that she opened a theater group and helped Palestinian children sort through their frustrations in the occupied zone via performance art. In Arna’s Children, directors Danniel Danniel and Arna’s son Juliano Mer Khamis assemble a difficult war correspondence from footage of the theater’s early days and video from the Battle of Jenin that left many of the woman’s former students dead. Arna, who died of cancer in 1997, explicitly coded a dialectic of violence into the rehearsals she supervised at her theater. When a young child says, “Acting is like throwing a Molotov cocktail,” you get a sense that he’s done his teacher proud. This encouragement of violence is certainly problematic, but because life in Jenin is so paralyzed by the Israeli occupation, it’s easy to see how frustration can so easily breed aggression. The war in the occupied zone is a battle for property, and as such the destruction of homes in Jenin’s refugee camps further compounds the problem of the Palestinian people. This loss of home resonates powerfully throughout the film, especially in scenes that cut between footage of a young Ala sitting in front of his destroyed parent’s home and video of the older boy orchestrating the resistance struggle that will eventually leave him dead. Arna’s theater is no more, destroyed by the Israeli army during the Battle of Jenin (when it was used by her students-turned-warriors as a bunker), but it continues to resonate as a symbol of ethnic perseverance.

Distributor
THINKFilm
Runtime
84 min
Rating
NR
Year
2004
Director
Danniel Danniel, Juliano Mer Khamis
Screenwriter
Danniel Danniel, Juliano Mer Khamis