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West Bank documentary follows children living in conflict

Ibrahim, Khaled and Kifah are Palestinian pre-teenagers living in Deheisheh, the largest refugee camp in the disputed territory of the West Bank in Israel.

“We don’t care about anything other than buying arms to shoot at the Israeli settlements,” one of the boys said.

Their lives, constantly interrupted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the subject of A Stone’s Throw Away, a documentary by Norwegian director Line Halvorsen, shown Tuesday night in Cooper Hall to an audience of 20.

Halvorsen spent two years in the West Bank as a member of the Peace Corps. She followed the boys over the course of three months to gain insight on the hopelessness of growing up in poverty in the midst of the long-standing conflict.

While the emotions of the boys are clear, the context of the film is not: The documentary doesn’t state any facts regarding the conflict. While it shows Israeli Defense Forces tanks roll down the streets, it provides no explanation as to what they are doing there. The film mentions a 24-hour curfew, yet most of the scenes show the boys playing outside or throwing rocks at IDF tanks. There is no explanation of the purpose of these curfews or why the boys continue to play outside under the restrictions.

Halvorsen said the documentary is not geared toward an audience uneducated about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This is not a film that goes out to explain the conflict,” Halvorsen said. “It was made to paint a picture about these boys.”

One scene in the film shows the boys visiting the grave of a friend they said was killed by an Israeli soldier. The film, however, does not clarify if the boy was killed in crossfire, and there is no evidence as to what really happened. In fact, the entire documentary is based strictly on interviews from the three boys, with no interviews from officials or experts.

At one point in the film, the boys visit their friend in what they called a “martyr cemetery.” The term “martyr” has multiple meanings, but Halvorsen insisted on one definition.

“The Palestinians call everyone who is killed a martyr,” Halvorsen said.

A student in the audience asked why she only used one definition of the term “martyr,” to which Halvorsen restated her answer.

Another student explained that Palestinians also use the term “martyr” to refer to suicide bombers, killing innocent Israeli civilians. Halvorsen agreed.

Halvorsen said her time in the West Bank changed her views on the conflict.

“I was shocked by what’s been going on,” she said.