Friday, August 25, 2006 | return to: arts, culture & judaica


Israeli boy’s project for ‘Peace’ doesn’t work out as planned

by michael fox, correspondent

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Even — or especially — in the wake of this most recent war, with nothing but enmity on all sides, one can be tempted by a child's peace project.

The child is Nadav, a 13-year-old Israeli with the quixotic idea of building a youth movement. "The adults aren't doing anything," he declares at the outset of "Little Peace of Mine," "so we should take it upon ourselves."

You could look at Nadav's brainstorm, Peace for the Future, one of two ways. How can children possibly accomplish what prime ministers and presidents have not? On the other hand, how could adolescents screw things up any worse than the experienced professionals?

Eyal Avneri's one-hour documentary follows Nadav's rather limited endeavors in Jerusalem over several months, spanning a period well before the current hostilities. The film itself proves both narrow in scope and shockingly superficial, offering few insights to any viewer with a modicum of knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The best audience, therefore, is children who will identify with Nadav's idealism, admire his persistence and relate to his frustration. Anything they glean about life in the Middle East will be a bonus.

"Little Peace of Mine" has its U.S. television premiere at 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 4 on the Sundance Channel.

The first hurdle Nadav faces is disagreement among friends within his own ranks over the purpose and direction of the organization. They want tangible interaction with Palestinians, while he is focused on fundraising and dreaming about the big picture.

"We don't want five kids to be good friends with five other kids," he asserts to his buddies. "We want 20,000 Israeli kids not to hate 20,000 Palestinian kids."

Nonetheless, Nadav calls Yossi Sarid, then head of the left-wing opposition party Meretz, who puts him in touch with a Palestinian peace group. A get-together is arranged between the children at the peace group's offices just outside the Old City.

It is an awkward meeting, in part because the Palestinian kids aren't as open and communicative as the Israelis. Next time around, however, the kids are more comfortable with each other, and eventually they are meeting every Friday afternoon for what might be called play dates.

"Little Peace of Mine" intersperses shots of Nadav playing video games and watching newscasts to suggest that he's both an ordinary boy and more preoccupied with current events than the average child. Ultimately, though, we're left with more questions than answers about his home life.

We never hear a word about his mother, and his relationship with his father begs for more context. Dad is a news correspondent for (we gather) an English-language radio station abroad, yet there's not a single scene of the two of them talking about politics or Peace for the Future.

Perhaps that's what accounts for Nadav's naveté. At one of the Friday game sessions, a Palestinian girl named Mai — a year or two older than him and more mature — passes around photographs, including snapshots of a checkpoint. Nadav has no idea what it is, or what daily life is like for Palestinians.

Consequently, he can't fathom why growing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians should spell the end of the children's get-togethers.

"It's very hard to continue," Mai explains in her imperfect English, "because I can't tell anybody to come to these meetings in this situation because they will tell me, 'How can we meet people whose government is building a wall around our house or around our village?'"

Disregarding sober reality, "Little Peace of Mine" contrives to end on an optimistic note. Along with the fudging of time frames, the inexplicable decision to have a grown-up read Nadav's narration and the insipid score, that choice may finally prompt some viewers to fling their remotes at the set.

Their assessment of Nadav will be less clear-cut. He has good intentions, but he also has a well-developed ego. As such, he bears a resemblance to driven American kids on the lookout for activities and accomplishments to list on their college applications.

The good news is that this film may remind viewers of the 2001 documentary "Promises," a superior portrait of Israeli teens reaching out to their Palestinian peers.

"Little Peace of Mine"
airs 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 4 on the Sundance Channel.


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