Tag Archives: reconciliation

Israel/Palestine Film Series – Fall 2016

The Peace and Conflict Studies program will be organizing another Israel/Palestine Film Series this semester. Screenings are open to the entire community, and we hope you will join us.

Israel/Palestine Film Series

Sponsored by Swarthmore Peace and Conflict Studies

All screenings are on Wednesdays at 4:15pm in the Lang Performing Arts Cinema

September 7: Promises

Israeli filmmaker documents a group of Israeli and Palestinian children meeting for the first time in and around Jerusalem.

September 14: Walk on Water

Israeli filmmaker produces this psychological thriller focusing on the life of one Israeli intelligence officer.

September 21: The Gatekeepers

Israeli filmmaker interviews all six living heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.

September 28: The War Around Us

American filmmaker follows the only two international journalists who covered the 2009 Israel-Hamas War in Gaza.

October 5: Paradise Now

Palestinian filmmaker produces this Academy Award-nominated fiction film examining the final hours before two Palestinian friends prepare to commit acts of violence in Tel Aviv.

October 19: Eyes Wide Open

Israeli filmmaker produces this breathtaking fiction film examining a love affair between two Orthodox Jewish men in Jerusalem.

Theater of Witness covers new ranges of emotional spectrum

The following piece appeared in the most recent issue of The Phoenix.

Theater of Witness covers new ranges of emotional spectrum

Theater of Witness is a series of staged dramatic performances and cinema pieces through which subjects recount complex personal histories. It was brought to Swarthmore on Monday, February 10 by its founder and director Teya Sepinuck. Sepinuck served as adjunct faculty in member in the college’s dance department for almost 20 years before leaving to found the Philadelphia-based TOVA: Artistic Projects for Social Change in 1991. More recently, she has been in Northern Ireland expanding the Theater of Witness program.The program opened with Sepinuck reading a short passage from her book, describing an encounter with children who were unwitting victims of war. It seemed generic, too distant to be meaningful. Sepinuck then moved towards presenting the actual “theater” of witness.She started with some footage of a young boy narrating on and off camera, accompanied by footage of his Philadelphia neighborhood. It is part of a piece connecting mothers of young gang violence victims to the perpetrators of said violence. The relationship between victim and perpetrator is essential and unique to Sepinuck’s work.“It’s harder to identify with the perpetrator,” said Sepinuck. “But it’s important.”Teya SepinuckAfter a brief and interesting, if not completely comprehensive, introduction to the methods of the program, Sepinuck showed a few particularly powerful Theater of Witness performances.The first video featured a man named Hakim Ali telling his story. Ali had committed acts of gang violence, and had not spoken about it or outwardly reflected on it before participating in Sepinuck’s program.

“It’s very healing,” said Sepinuck.

On stage he is full of emotion, the kind of regret and loss that is easy to feel and almost impossible to communicate. Sepinuck shared a story about how the mothers of victims and convicted perpetrators alike were in tears, moved to unabridged expression by the stories of their sons. But none of them were shown on screen, and the distance remained.

Next was the story of a couple from Sepinuck’s film “Raising Our Voice.” The work was inspired by a man who called Sepinuck, requesting to participate after having seen one of her programs. He confessed to committing domestic abuse and told Sepinuck that he kept hearing her name when he was praying. The film opens with a monologue from the man’s wife, who decided to participate in the program after watching him. She fights tears on screen as she outlines a history of helplessness and running away, ending on a note of strength and confidence. The scene then cuts to the man’s own story as the film follows him through a saga of masculine pressure that poisoned his protective instincts of love. The two end up on stage together, dancing closely. The “healing” capability that Sepinuck had referred to earlier was more than just cathartic introspection. It unifies parties that have damaged each other. As the couple dances on screen, there is not exactly forgiveness, but there is still love.

Sepinuck then presented her more recent work on the lives of those who had lost loved ones due to separatist and military violence in northern Ireland. She showed individually narrated short films: one of a young woman named Victoria, whose father was killed in an IRA related bomb attack and one of a young man named Fionbarr, whose father died at the hands of suspicious British police. Sepinuck then showed a Theater of Witness project featuring a young woman who had given herself to the IRA years ago as she tells the story of her impassioned extremism and its abrupt end due to a brain hemorrhage. She is then shown on stage together with the wives of men killed by IRA activity, in an example of the show’s careful exploration of the relativism of innocence and the universality of pain.

To conclude, Sepinuck showed material from her film “Living with Life”, a Theater of Witness project done at the State Correctional Institute in nearby Chester. A group of men sentenced to life in prison are interviewed about their free lives and current emotions at an unexpected, almost inconceivable depth. This is followed by their performance of an original composition by the prisoners, about how they must hold on to some fragments of sanity while confined. It is a perspective on life that, as consumers of a media saturated with grotesquely fantasized prison environments, is almost never seen.