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Chaim Shur and Munah Hamzeh are far apart not only in age, but also in politics. He’s a Zionist. She’s an anti-Zionist.


He lost a son in a reprisal raid on the PLO after the Munich massacre. On her wall hangs a photograph of her with (PLO Leader) Yasser Arafat.


Shur is Israeli. Hamzeh is Palestinian. They share very little and they share everything.


What they share are pain and loss.


Shur, a 60ish magazine editor living on a kibbutz in the Negev, and Hamzeh, a young journalist in Washington, are the central protagonists of TALKING TO THE ENEMY, Mira Hamermesh’s moving documentary that humanises the terrible conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.


After meeting in Washington in 1985, Shur and Hamzeh corresponded, and he invited her to visit him and his family on their kibbutz. At first Hamzeh balked. During the course of this film, however, the Jewish, Polish-born Hamermesh shows how the kibbutz meeting ultimately does come about.


TALKING TO THE ENEMY is marred by occasional bad audio and is unfocused and disjointed in spots. Yet the emotions captured on the screen are so raw and genuine – and the ironies of this long-standing Israeli-Palestinian antagonism so sensitively shown – that the film’s inelegance is far overshadowed by its essential truths.


When revisiting her childhood home in Haifa that is now in Israeli hands, Hamzeh cannot contain her sobs or rage and admits that, at that moment, “there is a side of that that can fight and carry a gun.” Yet later on the kibbutz, she cries along with Shur’s wife as the Israeli woman mourns the loss of her son in combat against the PLO.


Familiar stereotypes – Zionism means racism and Palestinian nationalism is synonymous with terrorism – are attacked here. Hamermesh, however, is too honest a filmmaker to inject gratuitous optimism. Shur and Hamzeh agree that “more blood will be shed.” Made more than three years ago, their prediction proves them prophets as well as enemies.

“Raw Emotions, Essential Truths” Howard Rosenberg on TALKING TO THE ENEMY, Los Angeles Times, Jan 30, 1990

TALKING TO THE ENEMY is a ground-breaking documentary that follows the friendship between an Israeli magazine editor, Chaim Shur, and a Palestinian journalist Muna Hamzeh. The film includes powerful imagery: Hamzeh’s tears when she visits her old family home in Jerusalem; the stunned look on her face as she witnesses Holocaust Memoria Day in Tel Aviv; and Shur’s own memories of the death in action of his twenty-two-year-old paratrooper son. In one extraordinary moment, the two are overwhelmed by the compassion for each other, and these “enemies” weep on each other’s shoulders. This film is a prayer for peace. Polish-born director Mira Hamermesh is an artist of distinction. Her award-winning films include the acclaimed MAIDS AND MADAMS, about South African apartheid. She lost both parents in the Holocaust.

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 1988

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