Review: "The Billboard from Bethlehem"

The focus of this documentary is the advocacy group Combatants for Peace, which is made up of members of the Israeli Defense Force that refused to go on duty in the occupied territories and former Palestinian resistance fighters who are eager to pursue Gandhian nonviolence as a means of gaining statehood.

Members of both sides needed to overcome grief and distrust – one Palestinian member talks frankly of his young daughter being killed by Israeli soldiers while an Israeli speaks of his teenage sister’s death in a suicide bomber attack. The group’s efforts were met with mild support by the Palestinian leadership and complete indifference from the Israeli government.

However, Bruce A. Barrett, the owner of a Connecticut-based billboard company, was intrigued enough by their endeavor to create a mural advocating Holy Land peace. Barrett, using Combatants for Peace, recruited Israeli and Palestinian children to paint the mural, which is on display as a billboard along Interstate 84 in Connecticut.

Barrett, who also produced and directed this film, deserves some praise for supporting the nonviolent goals of the Combatants for Peace movement. But it is impossible to escape the strange nature of his project and the seeming absurdity of its end result (how does a billboard alongside a Connecticut highway ultimately help to fuel the Israel-Palestine peace process?).

The film works best when Barrett is out of sight and the members of Combatants for Peace speak freely about their own experiences and their hopes for the nations’ future. Their comments offer cogent insights on the roots of the conflict and the possible route to its peaceful solution.

“The Billboard from Bethlehem”
2009, Documentary, 63 minutes, Not rated
Directed by Bruce A. Barrett, Released by IWagePeace.org
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