ARTICLES

Can a zealous Palestinian and a nationalistic Israeli share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

TALKING TO THE ENEMY

Frank Lovece, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 28 January 1990

So wonders filmmaker Mira Hamermesh, whose real-life odd couple from either side of the war in Israel are comic and tragic and, most of all, eye-opening. TALKING TO THE ENEMY is her hour-long documentary about the experimental relationship between an Israeli editor and a Palestinian journalist.

 

“I pride myself,” said Hamermesh, “on making documentaries that aren’t focused on political parties or leaders but that get inside the skin of everyday people who have dramatic lives and dramatic heartbreaks.” 

 

Her earlier MAIDS AND MADAMS narrowed apartheid to the relationship between a woman and her servant. TALKING TO THE ENEMY observes what happens when Chaim Shur, editor of the Israeli magazine NEW OUTLOOK and Muna Hamzeh, a Palestinian woman journalist in the United States, exchange letters and eventually share a visit. Unlike a Hollywood movie, there are no neat and tidy resolutions.

 

Hamermesh, a Polish Jew settled in England, was “already researching the film and selecting a number of candidates (to put together for this relationship) when someone brought me an issue of NEW OUTLOOK where Chaim and Muna had already exchanged letters and gotten to know each other. I went out of  my skin with excitement,” she said. “This was what I was looking for exactly – more than I though I would ever find.”

 

TALKING TO THE ENEMY debuted in England in 1987 and won the Prix du Public at France’s Films de Femmes Festival. Hamermesh thinks one reason for the award is her objectivity. “I’ve been accused by a section of Jewish opinion as sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, and some Palestinians say (the documentary) is pro-Israel. That tells me, I think, that I managed to be even-handed.”

 

What makes TALKING TO THE ENEMY so riveting, however, is that she did so without being heavy-handed.