Israel versus Palestine.
A war that has been going on for years. People are dying every day in both countries, but both think they are right. Who is right? Or more importantly, whose right is it to determine the answer?
“Arna’s Children,” a documentary by Juliano Mer Khamis, tells the story of Arna Mer Khamis.
From the beginning to the end, the movie catches every audience member’s attention. The film starts with a woman, Arna, who looks about 90 years old, whistling and shouting in protest. Cars passing by have horns honking and drivers yelling in response. She wants a change and she wants it fast.
The film is more about the group of children and what their experiences growing up in the area of Palestine. Arna’s effect on the children changed their attitude about the situation and how to handle it. You can see the adoring look in their eyes when she talks. People listen to her.
From the first scene, anyone can tell the woman has spirit. She may look frail, but she has more to her than what is physically apparent. When she gets in a room of children, her mannerisms stay the same but she refers to some as “love” and tells everyone to let the children mess up. “Don’t correct them!”
The focus was especially on the group of boys that went to the theater. The director watches them learn specifically through group exercises. He directs them to act like their English schoolteacher. All but one of the boys sit down in a row on the bench and wait. The one other boy comes out saying things in English. When the other boys don’t stand up as he enters, the teacher smacks all of them with a ruler. He does the same when they can’t name a letter of the alphabet.
Flashbacks bring the viewer back to this childhood when the boys are interviewed as young adults later in life. When talking to one boy, Ala, about the possibility of his house getting destroyed, a clip appears of him as a boy sitting on the ruins of his other house that had been attacked by the Israeli army. Behind this clip is the sound of Ala talking and the subtitles run across the bottom of the screen. To realize what this man has been through adds sadness to the film that was also done on numerous other occasions.
I recommend seeing this film; it is all real footage and people. The sequence of events is enough to make you as a viewer bite your nails in nervousness the whole movie. When something disastrous happens to one of the boys from the theater, a little piece of your heart will go with them. It will make you understand why Palestinians want to be free.
In a very early part of the film, all the children in the refugee camp are singing a song about freedom and revenge. They sing that all the other kids in the world get to be free, so why can’t they? The filmmaker ends it with the same thing. However, in the beginning, the children are in shelter. At the end, they are walking around outside with almost nothing to wear. It is very symbolic of the whole film and puts a wonderful touch that gives the viewer closure. Arna acknowledges something early in the film that rings true for everyone. She says, “There is no freedom without knowledge.” What is more perfect to freedom than knowledge?