Little Town of Bethlehem shares the life stories of three different people who grew up within the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and who each chose nonviolence as their ways of life. I deliberately selected a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian because the three faiths are seen as reasons for war, and because the three faiths are all commanded to love their neighbors.
I recognize that every story is someone’s perspective and therefore it can be said that every story has some level of bias. At the same time, the art of storytelling is about exploring the human condition. Whatever bias exists the audience is going to see it, and that is going to tell them something as well. It is going to tell them if the protagonists and filmmakers are honest, and if there is anything rewarding to learn from their perspectives. In the end the audience remembers a film or story because they believe they gained something from it, and that the story reveals something worthwhile about our common humanity. In as many words that describes why I wanted to make this film and what I wanted the film to achieve. I believe the voices of nonviolence are an underrepresented perspective and they tell us a great deal about ourselves.
We started filming in Jordan and southern Lebanon just after the 2007 war between Israel and Lebanon. It wasn’t the best time for an American film team to be in southern Beirut. Many of the craters had signs over them saying “Made in America,” in reference to the arms support America provides Israel. I knew that this was going to be a hard film to make and that many of my friends in America would not understand why we were doing this. At the same time I was challenged by what this story said about us—and by us I mean humanity. I knew that whatever the cost this was an important story to know for myself and to share with my friends and the world.
There is so much history to this conflict, and people on both sides are continually trying to rewrite the history. I thought, well, let’s just have three contemporary people who grew up with their own understandings of the history share what the conflict looks like to them. They each inherited the conflict. They each have good reasons for continuing the conflict. They each overcame the past in order to face the future, so their stories should be pretty interesting. Little Town of Bethlehem is their story. We didn’t use an announcer. The three protagonists share their personal journeys and what it was like for them to choose nonviolence as the way forward and why.
I also knew that if we could show how nonviolence brought life to them then the film wasn’t limited to one conflict or geographic area but spoke to all conflicts. The goal was to present the story and see whether this assumption is true, and like any good filmmaker I believe it is only true if the audience arrives at that conclusion for themselves.
To find or host a screening of Little Town of Bethlehem, or to purchase a copy, visit the film’s site here.
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