With Rare Inclusiveness, Doc ‘Colliding Dreams’ Examines the Story of Zionism


In the opening titles, Colliding Dreams calls itself “the story of Zionism as told by inhabitants of the land.” Note the careful phrasing — “inhabitants,” “land” — which doesn’t specify which ones but assumes that you, the engaged viewer, already have some idea. This is an unusual documentary that accepts Zionism as a fact, then asks how it affects and is interpreted by Muslims, Palestinians, Jews, and Israelis. When was the last time you saw a film that mapped the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and labeled its holy inland city Al-Quds/Jerusalem? Or that called Zionism a European solution to a European problem, then made explicit how Israel’s Ashkenazi Jewish founders — with British backing — did not factor in the Mizrahim, Sephardim, and other non-Ashkenazi Jews who came to join the Jewish state and have often since been treated by the Israeli government as, at best, an inconvenience?

Admittedly, it’s an awfully low bar that makes a film about the Middle East radical simply for taking into account the opinions and experiences of people of color. But it’s really, wonderfully refreshing to find one that centers on storytelling like this. Co-directors Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky present an impressive collection of interviews with Palestinians, Israelis, and those who fall somewhere in between: with PLO officials in Ramallah and secular Jewish novelists in Tel Aviv; with Palestinian scholars in East Jerusalem and Orthodox followers of Rabbi Kook in West Jerusalem; with ordinary people on the street and in cafés in the West Bank and Israel. Framing this compilation is a historical overview, complete with archival footage and audio, of the rise of Zionism and the first new Jewish settlers and kibbutzim in British Mandatory Palestine, including Palestinian reactions to these new neighbors. How one Israeli framing of the Zionist myth — first just a home for the Jews, later an exclusive one — shifted after the state was founded, after Palestinians were driven out and persecuted, after the Six-Day War, after the Intifadas, and in the current age of renewed messianism.

Made by two obsessive, detail-oriented Jews of Ashkenazi heritage, Colliding Dreams is a long, slow (sometimes plodding), and thoughtful film committed to depicting the violence suffered by Palestinians and Israelis, the power differentials between them, and how that has changed over the past seventy years. How can everyone go home? It’s an impossible question, but a vital one. By listening deeply, Dorman and Rudavsky suggest that, even if there might not be an answer, we can always change the story; see how it already has changed, so many times? As Yuli Tamir, former Israeli minister of education and a co-founder of the Peace Now movement, says in the film, “All national myths are fictions. For Jews, for Arabs, for Christians. It’s all fiction. Nothing is true…that’s the myth of nationalism; it really works. Like love, people are ready to die for it.” After all these years, we keep telling stories.

Colliding Dreams
Directed by Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky
International Film Circuit
Opens March 4, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas