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Why San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is showing Rachel, a film by Simone Bitton about Rachel Corrie, and inviting Cindy Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s mother, to the Festival:1. The film Rachel is directed by veteran filmmaker Simone Bitton, a dual citizen of Israel and France. The documentary takes an unflinching look at the controversy surrounding the death of an American activist who was protesting Israeli military actions in Gaza. In the film, Bitton, through interviews with eyewitnesses, Israeli soldiers and spokespeople, and others close to the tragedy, exposes new information about the incident which we believe makes for very worthwhile viewing, from both a journalistic and an aesthetic perspective. The film has already played in such prestigious festivals as the Berlin International Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival (New York).
2. The film Rachel includes the viewpoints of people with a variety of opinions on the events which led to Ms. Corrie’s death. It includes interviews with Israeli army spokeswoman Avital Leibovitch, as well as doctors, activists, soldiers, Israeli and Palestinian civilians, and Rachel Corrie’s parents. The film also includes military video from the Israeli army.
3. As with all the films we show at SFJFF, we are presenting the views of the filmmakers and their subjects in what we hope is an atmosphere that encourages free expression and public debate. We regret that the filmmaker of Rachel could not be present to discuss the film personally, although we invited her to be here. Cindy Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s mother, is a subject of the documentary, and it is customary (and even expected by audiences) for documentary subjects to participate in Festival screenings. This kind of exchange has occurred throughout our Festival’s long history, and Cindy Corrie herself has addressed audiences at the Tribeca Film Festival, presentations in New York theaters, and other cultural forums. We wish to provide our audiences with the same opportunity. Her appearance at SFJFF is not intended to provide a political platform but rather to deepen the dialogue around the film. Cindy Corrie has publicly advocated for ensuring “justice, freedom, security and economic viability for both Israelis and Palestinians.” We think it will be an illuminating conversation.
4. We are presenting the film as part of a wider series on social justice and activism, and want our audience to have the benefit of a direct encounter with those who can help them understand Rachel Corrie’s motivations ‐ even if they don’t agree with them ‐ from a very personal standpoint. The filmmaker considers herself a film essayist rather than a reporter and desires the film to be viewed as an artistic statement as well as an investigation.
5. SFJFF’s commitment to Israeli filmmakers and cinema is steadfast. We are proud that this year we are showcasing 37 individual films from or connected to Israel – comedies, dramas, documentaries, animation and shorts – which together form a very vibrant portrait of the country and its complexity. Other political affairs documentaries besides Rachel include Gilad Shalit: 2 Years in Captivity, a portrait of Gilad Shalit, the soldier captured by Hamas; and Chronicle of a Kidnap, a portrait of Karnit Goldwasser, the widow of Ehud Goldwasser, an Israeli soldier who was one of many victims of the Lebanon war.
6. The SFJFF supports the democratic exchange of ideas that great filmmaking provides. We believe that the best artists, including documentary filmmakers, create work that makes us think and sparks a dialogue both within the Jewish community and the greater community of the Bay Area. We do not expect that the views of every film or speaker will be embraced by all of our audiences, nor can every film represent the diverse views of SFJFF staff, board, members or sponsors. We unanimously embrace the tradition of spirited debate that is a core element of Jewish inquiry, and strive to provide a welcoming forum for the discussion of different perspectives.