National Film Board of Canada
Québec Crédit d’impôt cinéma et télévision - Gestion SODEC
SODEC Société de développement des entreprises culturelles
Rogers Documentary Fund Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit
Raised in a home of Jewish Holocaust survivors, I discovered early on the importance of bearing witness to injustice. In my first feature documentary, Shoot and Cry (1988), I explored the life of a young Israeli conscript serving in the Occupied Territories, and how his path intersected that of a Palestinian youth from Jenin working illegally in a Jewish-Israeli cafe. Growing up in a conservative Jewish neighbourhood in Toronto, I had important questions to share with my community—especially during a time when support for a Palestinian state and Palestinian human rights were rarely discussed in North American living rooms. Broadcasts and screenings of Shoot and Cry provoked lively debate.
Following Shoot and Cry’srelease I remained a Middle East news junkie. I authored many internationally themed films, yet felt the important job of making documentaries on the Middle East should be left to local creators. Hence, in 2009, I surprised myself by embarking on another project on the region and its conflicts.
Grassroots in Dry Landsbegan when I met McGill University Professor Jim Torczyner who, for over a decade, had used his Montreal classroom to help prepare social workers from Palestine, Jordan and Israel to be agents of change in some of the poorest and most polarized neighbourhoods in the Middle East. Between 2008 and 2014, I shadowed a number of these social work graduates in their home countries, exploring both personal histories and the struggles of their constituents. Grateful for their student days in Montreal, Nuha Dweikat Shaer and Sami Kilani (in Nablus, Palestine), Amit Kitan and Merav Moshe (in Southern Israel), and Talal Qdah (in East Amman, Jordan) entrusted me with their stories. They showed me why and how working with disenfranchised families is key to building civil society in conflict zones.
Nuha, Sami, Amit, Merav, and Talal provide rare, in-depth access to communities off the radar of most media. Grassroots in Dry Lands reveals what they shared with me: that those hit hardest by war and conflict—be they in Israel, Palestine or Jordan—are most often the poor and most vulnerable. Yet because of their “bottom-rung status,” such Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians have much more in common than their politicians would like them—or us—to believe.
I was deeply inspired by my characters’ vision of a shared future—a future where all peoples of the region, irrespective of class, ethnicity or religion, enjoy the same rights. I am forever grateful to have seen how they work with interminable courage, hope and conviction towards this Herculean goal.
Set in Palestine, Israel and Jordan, Grassroots in Dry Lands reveals a unique human-rights-based approach to democratic change taking rootin neighbourhoods across the region. The film delivers an unprecedented perspective on the Middle East, showing how on-the-ground initiatives by committed and skilled social and community workers are producing hope for lasting change.
Set in Palestine, Israel and Jordan, Grassroots in Dry Lands reveals a unique human-rights-based approach to democratic change taking rootin neighbourhoods across the region. Through intimate access to the world of social workers committed to the belief that all peoples deserve the same rights, filmmaker Helene Klodawsky delivers an unprecedented perspective on the Middle East, showing how the seeds planted by these passionate activists are producing hope for lasting change.