RUINS OF LIFTA
A film by Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky
2016, Documentary, English, 77 minutes, Digital
A First Run Features release
First Run Features announces the New York theatrical premiere of THE RUINS OF LIFTA on September 23, 2016 at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas
In this new documentary from filmmakers Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky (Hiding and Seeking, A Life Apart), audiences will travel to Lifta—the only Palestinian village abandoned during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that has not been destroyed or repopulated by Jews. The land and its buildings, at the western entrance to Jerusalem, is a place of great beauty and significant history, yet is rarely a destination on any tourist map. Lifta is now threatened by an Israeli development plan that would convert it into an upscale Jewish neighborhood and forever change its character. With the support of the Palestinian and Jewish Coalition to Save Lifta, Lifta has become a battleground between developers, the Israeli Land authority, and its defenders. Lifta's unique history and architectural treasures have made it a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage site, pending far from certain Israeli government approval.
The story told in THE RUINS OF LIFTA revolves around the conflict's underpinnings: the Holocaust and the Nakba (the Palestinian exile of 1948). It begins with filmmaker Menachem Daum's parents' devastating Holocaust experiences. Their perspective (as seen in the film Hiding and Seeking) deeply influenced Menachem's views of non-Jews, the Polish people, and Palestinians. An Orthodox Jew who grew up among Holocaust Survivors, Menachem Daum began questioning the narrow views of his community. He sets out to examine those views by establishing a personal relationship with a Palestinian. The first Palestinian he meets is Yacoub Odeh, who was expelled from Lifta in 1948 and now leads the struggle to save the haunting ruins of his village from Israeli plans to build luxury villas on the site.
When Menachem learns that Lifta was once a place where Jews and Palestinians got along, and that his revered uncle might have been involved in Jewish militia attacks on Lifta, he seeks out family members as well as Israeli and Palestinian witnesses and historians. These include Benny Morris, Hillel Cohen and Palestinian lawyer Sami Arshid. Menachem meets members of the Coalition to Save Lifta, including Yacoub, Daphna Golan and Ilan Shatyer and debates joining Yacoub's campaign with Dasha Rittenberg, a Holocaust Survivor in New York who is a close friend. In a move at reconciliation, he sets up a climactic encounter between Dasha and Yacoub among the ruins of Lifta.
Rudavsky and Daum present this unique story, a microcosm of the Middle Eastern conflict, with unprecedented honesty and compassion. As Rudavsky states, "Through an open discussion with some of the most thoughtful inhabitants of the land, we have sought to impart what we have learned to a wider public."
Oren Rudavsky (director, co-producer and director of photography) was co-producer and co-director of HIDING AND SEEKING and A LIFE APART. Rudavsky is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and has received awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Council for the Arts and more. His most recently completed film COLLDING DREAMS is a feature length documentary that was supported by a media grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is currently producing a film on Joseph Pulitzer for American Masters.
Menachem Daum (director and co-producer) was also co-producer and co-director of HIDING AND SEEKING and A LIFE APART. Narrated by Leonard Nimoy and Sarah Jessica Parker, A LIFE APART explores the post-Holocaust revival of Hasidism in America and the intergenerational transmission of Hasidic values from Holocaust survivors to their American-born children. It went on to win numerous awards including a CINE Golden Eagle and was nominated for a national Emmy. It was broadcast nationally on PBS. HIDING AND SEEKING was funded by ITVS and was broadcast nationally on PBS POV. It was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Daum is also a frequent contributor to PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.
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