Reviews

PRESS HIGHLIGHTS AND FEATURE ARTICLES

Press Highlights

An insightful, moving, important film… Extraordinary.
- Stewart Nusbaumer, The Huffington Post

A powerful exploration of both the pain and growth that real listening brings in a situation of conflict.
- Michele Alperin, The Princeton Packet

The teenage girls who make such compelling protagonists in “My So-Called Enemy”… offer inspiring examples of reconciliation in that embattled region.
- Ann Hornaday The Washington Post

Subtle, not pedantic, “My So-Called Enemy” is a balanced and nuanced approach to understanding conflict. An excellent choice for students of diplomacy and world conflict, and a reminder of the power of youthful idealism to make the world a better place. (Red Star Review – Recommended for students grades 7+)
– Robin Levin, Fort Washakie School/Community Library, WY, School Library Journal

If indeed, these women are tomorrow’s leaders in the Middle East, the future of the area is much brighter.
- Deborah Barber, Women’s Voices for Change

A provocative, balanced film that offers unexpected hope for resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
- Erin Petty, Washington City Paper

The greatest success of the film is its ability to remain grounded and balanced. Gossels did a wonderful job focusing on a wide range of thinkers, and not limiting herself to one perspective… It was exactly the type of footage – of frustration and doubt – that served as the sobering theme, and also as the triumph of the film.
- Gabi P. Remz, Moment Magazine

Watching this evocative documentary was both a deeply moving, and deeply uncomfortable, experience. I am the same age as the women portrayed in the film… and “My So-Called Enemy” forced me, along with these young women, to understand the limits of the narrative I have come of age with, and to honestly confront the face of the other.

One of the most admirable features of the film is that no side is allowed to “win,” and the stories that are told are not neatly resolved… “My So-Called Enemy” ends ultimately with the hope that one day we will live in a world where my cousin can call his friend in the next village, and they can share their fears with each other.
- Rachel Druck, The Nation

A mesmerizing, eye-opening film that shows the true power of friendship and empathy to conquer political boundaries… “My So-Called Enemy” is the perfect film for anyone interested in conflict resolution, peacemaking, or simply witnessing how the power of friendship and empathy can conquer political boundaries
- Laini Cassis (19 years old) Teen Voices

In order to reach peace, there must be some opportunity to break down the symbolic walls standing between the Self and the Other. As Gossels and the six appealingly emotional, sensitive, intelligent and independent women she profiled on film well know, peacemaking is not much of a paradox after all.
- Mira Sucharov, Ha’aretz

“My So-Called Enemy” is one of those documentaries that you want certain heads-of-state to be compelled to watch. Already it’s garnered awards… and is stirring up complex reactions in viewers wherever it’s screened.
- Ann Hutton, Hudson Valley Times

The beauty of this film is not simply that it looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new way; it’s that it shows how the particularly vulnerable demographic of teenage girls attempts to deal with and understand the ‘enemy’ – in this case, other teenage girls.

Gossels hopes to convey a more universal message of what young women are able to achieve when equipped with the proper tools and education… It makes for a vivid viewing experience.
- Stephanie Butnick, The Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life

“My So-Called Enemy” traces the way in which ingrained prejudices quickly erode once both sides are allowed to see each other as human.
- Shaun Brady, Philadelphia City Paper

Moving, powerful, intelligent and brave.
- Eric Alterman, The Nation

Enlightens and inspires its audience… This film shows the dangers of carrying all of the baggage of generations past when dealing with any conflict.
- Shelly Runyon, The Bay State Banner

What the documentary doesn’t do is set up an unrealistic expectation that with a 10-day summer camp program, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will magically come to a peaceful end… Rather what it does create for viewers is a deeper understanding of the possibility for change found within a more hopeful, encouraged youth.
- D. Tuchman, The Seattle Star

Feature Articles

The Nation
It was 32 years ago today…
By Rachel Druck (November 18, 2010)

In the summer of 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, I was staying with relatives in a suburb of Jerusalem… That same summer a group of twenty-two Israeli and Palestinian girls were heading for New Jersey to participate in a leadership program for women, “Building Bridges for Peace…”

Watching this evocative documentary was both a deeply moving, and deeply uncomfortable, experience. I am the same age as the women portrayed in the film, and relatively frequent trips to Israel meant that I was often in the country when many of the events that took place over the course of filming occurred… Being forced to listen to a wide range of opinions, and “My So-Called Enemy” forced me, along with these young women, to understand the limits of the narrative I have come of age with, and to honestly confront the face of the other.

One of the most admirable features of the film is that no side is allowed to “win,” and the stories that are told are not neatly resolved. The Israelis are still drafted into the IDF, the wall between the West Bank and Gaza rises, and the lines of communication between the program participants become increasingly tenuous… In a world in which women are urged, above all, to “Be Nice,” and avoid conflict, these women learn to express themselves powerfully and confront each other and their own contradictory, wide-ranging set of feelings. “My So-Called Enemy” ends ultimately with the hope that one day we will live in a world where my cousin can call his friend in the next village, and they can share their fears with each other.

Ha’aretz
THE FIFTH QUESTION: Intimacy or divorce? The paradox of peacemaking
Thoughts on the premier of “My So-Called Enemy”
by Mira Sucharov (October 5, 2012)

At the Canadian Premiere of Lisa Gossels’ 2010 documentary “My So-Called Enemy,” last night in Ottawa, I was struck by a fundamental paradox of Middle East peacemaking. On one hand, the warring parties are being pushed by policymakers and many peace activists to separate. Amos Oz has famously described Israelis and Palestinians as an unhappily married couple, stuck in the same apartment, desperately in need of a divorce. And Peace Now runs campaigns focusing on the moral, economic and security burden of the West Bank. Yet conflict resolution activists like those who run the various peace camps that dot the North American conflict resolution landscape, such as Seeds of Peace, Peace Camp Ottawa, and Building Bridges – the subject of Gossels’ documentary, seem to rest on the opposite premise: that peace will come about through intimacy. Which is it?

… By bringing Israeli and Palestinian youth together for team building and the opportunity of intense friendship, particularly during adolescence, that vulnerable and tender period in a person’s life, do these peace camps seek to promote a one-state solution, where everyone can live together, happily ever after?

Not necessarily.

I posed a similar question to Gossels after the film. Her response echoed what I have long believed: peace is at least a two-step process. The dynamic depicted in the film represents an important first stage. That is, in order to reach peace, there must be some opportunity to break down the symbolic walls standing between the Self and the Other. It’s hard to contemplate new realities, aspects of which can be painful — compromise often is — without acknowledging the needs, desires, and narratives of one’s “so-called” enemy.

It’s not easy. It’s not easy to be told that your family shouldn’t be allowed to return to their ancestral home in Jaffa. And it’s perhaps even harder to be told to go back to where your parents came from — in the case of one Israeli girl in the film, Iran. But first let’s talk. And really listen. And only once we’ve listened can we draw borders.

As for the one-state solution, it is very unlikely that Israelis will willingly forego the core identity of their state: that is, a Jewish and democratic one. Palestinians won’t abide a never-ending occupation. If these girls — and by extension, their leaders, are truly listening to one other, there’s one likely solution that will emerge. The walls may remain, but they will hopefully be moved to accommodate two independent countries: no longer one existing under the heel of the other.

So, as Gossels and the six appealingly emotional, sensitive, intelligent and independent women she profiled on film well know, peacemaking is not much of a paradox after all.

Teen Voices
“My So-Called Enemy” Movie Review
By Laini Cassis, 19 years old (April 22, 2012)

“My So-Called Enemy” is a mesmerizing, eye-opening film that shows the true power of friendship… What these honest and intelligent girls have to say about their world is at times shocking and compelling, but oftentimes universal…

This transformative film beautifully exhibits that the first steps toward peace involve listening, challenging one’s own beliefs, and including women in the discussion. Talking about war and terrorism is not always easy, but these young women dared to be a part of these tough conversations. Long after the camp, the six young women continued in their individual directions, but were now aware of friends on the other side of the wall. “My So-Called Enemy” is the perfect film for anyone interested in conflict resolution, peacemaking, or simply witnessing how the power of friendship and empathy can conquer political boundaries.

The Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life
Teenage Wasteland: A new film explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an adolescent angle
By Stephanie Butnick (February 17, 2011)

As I watched My So-Called Enemy, a documentary that follows six Israeli and Palestinian teenage girls from a peace-building workshop in New Jersey in 2002 and back to the Middle East several years later, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable at times… But the beauty of this film is not simply that it looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new way, it’s that it shows how the particularly vulnerable demographic of teenage girls attempts to deal with and understand the “enemy”—in this case, other teenage girls.

Sitting in director Lisa Gossels’s apartment a few days after watching the film, I told her about my discomfort—and she didn’t seem surprised. The point of the film, which was recently screened at the New York Jewish Film Festival, is to highlight the voices not heard in the news and show the viewer “the realities of life on the ground,” she explained. Gossels, a New York-based filmmaker who attended the Building Bridges for Peace program in 2002—a particularly devastating year in Israel—said she was struck by the absence of any semblance of political correctness in the room of 22 girls ages 16 to 19. That they were so brutally honest with each other, she explained, created a depth of communication and allowed for intense, productive discussions. It also makes for a vivid viewing experience, where raw emotions—exhausting frustration, very real anger, and desperate hope—punctuate the budding friendships between the girls…

For Gossels, who won an Emmy in 2001 for her first film, The Children of Chabannes (the story of a French village where 400 Jewish children, including her father and uncle, were saved during the Holocaust), My So-Called Enemy is a coming-of-age story, filmed through the lens of six women “crossing the threshold from adolescence to adulthood.” When the girls are revisited in their homes several years later they have each changed in many ways; they have grown up and developed strong identities. Some have entered the Israeli army; some have gone to college; one has chosen to wear the hijab. (The girls remain in touch with Gossels, emailing and calling her regularly). The circumstances in which the girls have grown up are undeniably distinct—they face actual dangers and have fears far beyond the usual adolescent anxieties—but Gossels hopes to convey a more universal message of what young women are able to achieve when equipped with the proper tools and education…

Ultimately, Gossels says she hopes she has created a film that shows the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while depicting “what happens when we create relationships across borders, personal or physical.” These relationships, she says, can be the first steps towards solving conflict.

Princeton Packet
SPOTLIGHT: ‘My So-Called Enemy’
By Michele Alperin (November 23, 2011)

Youth is often a time of idealism and empathy with the other. But caught in the difficult struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians, idealism and reality knock heads, creating a vulnerability that can verge into hatred. Into this gap steps the program Building Bridges for Peace, which brings together Palestinian and Israel teenage girls for a joint leadership program in the United States, with a follow-up in their home communities.

Filmmaker Lisa Gossels, after her first, Emmy Award-winning film, The Children of Chabannes, wanted to make a film about conflict resolution and young people. By coincidence, or perhaps it was fated, she heard Melodye Feldman, founder of Bridges, and four participants talk about the program at a Denver educational conference in August 2001, right before Sept. 11. When Ms. Gossels proposed a documentary about both the program and its lingering effects on the lives of participants, Ms. Feldman was game.

Ms. Gossels’ new film My So-Called Enemy is a powerful exploration of both the pain and growth that real listening brings in a situation of conflict. From 5,400 minutes of footage taken by two camera crews working day and night during the 10-day program, Ms. Gossels and her editing crew culled the first 27 minutes of the film; the clips reflect the encounters between the young women, both serious and playful, and highlight the voices of the six Gossels decided to follow in ensuing years….

…When the participants return to their home communities, they continue to grow as strong women even as they face new challenges. The two Jewish Israelis both join the army, well aware that their Palestinian friends view Israeli soldiers as agents of the occupation; and one of them, Adi, ends up participating in the emotional removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza. When Palestinian Inas’s teacher is killed in the conflict, she is so overwrought that she goes to Chicago to pursue her education. Hanin becomes an observant Muslim, and Palestinian Muslim Rawan and Palestinian Christian Rezan simply persevere in the face of roadblocks and violence as they stay committed to resolving the conflict….

With so many pearls of wisdom in the footage her crews accumulated, making choices of what to include and what to leave out was especially difficult. Yet, says Ms. Gossels, it is in the editing room that a documentary’s stories take shape. To help make these difficult choices, they held critical feedback screenings at various stages to make sure the film was balanced and entertaining and that it provided enough context for viewers to enjoy and take the emotional journeys with the young women and that it worked dramatically whether or not viewers were knowledgeable about the conflict.

Filmmaker Gossels feels she achieved her aim in the film of moving beyond the sense of “you-them” that is always part of a conflict by following the trajectory of these six young women who experienced the Bridges program. Ms. Gossels says, “To me the program is absolutely extraordinary, and you see in the postscript how all the women are leaders and want to be teachers and ambassadors. They are all social change agents as a result of the program.”

Musing on her goals with the film, Ms. Gossels says, “At its heart this film is about how transformative it is to know the other as a human being, about building bridges of understanding in our communities.”

Not only the program, but the film itself works to help its viewers move beyond stereotyped views of the other by presenting these thoughtful young women as strong individuals…

”The film is bringing together in dialogues people who are very engaged and have deep emotional attachments and stakes in the conflict,” she says. “Because my film takes the political to the personal, people have told me that my film is allowing them to have conversations that can’t have in their own families…”

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