Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

It was probably my best Christmas yet. Sneaking into the World Cup, World Series, and NCAA Final Four is nothing compared to getting into Midnight Mass in Bethlehem without a ticket. And while these mundane sporting events do provide a forum for inebriation and repression of my sin, they don't provide a forum for instant confession. But alas, this was not sneaking in for the sake of watching a meaningless sporting event with no real world implications. This is one of the holiest rituals in the world for Christians, and it was an honor to witness it firsthand. This Christmas, I am grateful for all the Palestinian ticket-takers who didn't see me as I meandered my way into the Church of the Nativity. However, the Church on this night decided that four ticket-checking perimeters is not enough. There had to be five. Thus I would be remiss to not also be grateful for the one final Palestinian doorman who did catch me, but instead of instantly kicking me to the curb, listened to me with an open heart and decided to let me in ticket-less. (Don't ask what I told him!) In all my years of sneaking into sporting events, rock concerts, and countries, that has never happened to me. I guess he figured that I had come so far, and the look of desperation on my face was so genuine, that he couldn't do it. What a guy! Having spent a large chunk of the past two weeks in Bethlehem, working on this story for Time, I felt that it was only fitting that I end the piece with footage from this incredible ritual. Maybe a higher power also found it fitting. Enjoy the video:

Bethlehem's Complicated Christmas

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Ideal Holiday Gift

Looking for a special gift for a special loved one?
Would you like to make this Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza one to remember (for at least a few days)?
Do you need something that can be stuffed snugly into a standard size stocking?
Perhaps Santa wants a lightweight gift so he won't have to hire that extra reindeer in today's economic climate?
Did you just lose your job and crave some cinematic escapism?

If you answered yes, no, or maybe, to any of the above questions, then I have the perfect gift for you.

It's the Disengagement on DVD.

Yes, you heard right. Forget that diamond necklace because while diamonds may be forever and a girl's best friend, the disengagement film will last as long as DVD players are around and is a political scientist with an emphasis in Middle East studies and conflict resolution's best friend.

So go ahead and pleasure that person in your life with a Middle East fetish, and buy the Disengagement Film.

It's less than 20 bucks, and at least part of the money will go to my next film, so it's for a good cause as well.

Order by clicking here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Waltz Wins

Congratulations to Ari Folman, director/producer of Waltz with Bashir. This movie is a must see, and was justly rewarded this week with the prestigious IDA Documentary Award. When I saw the film I wondered how it would be categorized. It's not exactly a documentary, since it is animated. But it re-creates documentary style interviews throughout, so I guess it could be considered a documentary. The animation is other-worldly, and is used to delve into the subconscious of an Israeli traumatized by his experiences in the First Lebanon War. These re-creations take you into the heart of war-torn Lebanon by navigating the shadowy crevices of the human mind. In doing so, this picture does more than tell a great story, it stretches the limits of what is possible in cinema.

Here is the trailer, but do yourself a favor, and go see the whole thing:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Playing for Change Doc

There's nothing I love more than a good music documentary. And one that involves traveling all over the world makes it even more appealing to me. This is an excerpt from what looks like a great music doc, which I hope to see in its entirety soon. The filmmaker and music producer, Mark Johnson, travels all over the world to record songs that everyone knows and loves. Here is "Stand by Me"

Playing for Change Website

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Journalist Boat to Gaza?

There is another humanitarian boat trip to Gaza leaving from Jaffa this week.

According to this Jerusalem Post article , it is paid for by a Qatari Charity organization, operated by Arabs with Israeli residency, and will be delivering aid and medicine to the Palestinians in Gaza.

This gave me an idea. If I rented a boat and organized a multinational/ humanitarian/journalist boat trip to Gaza, we could bring in food and medicine into Gaza while making an important point about press freedom.

Let's wait and see if the Israeli navy lets in this boat from Jaffa, and then I will seriously consider implementing this idea.

BREAKING NEWS: The New York Times just reported that the ban is over. The Israeli government just came back to their senses. Foreign journalists will apparently be allowed back into Gaza to do their jobs. No boat necessary.