Hava Kohav Beller’s documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict purports to be “suspenseful,” but, despite the filmmakers’ diligent displaying of a multiplicity of experiences, In the Land of Pomegranates proves a downcast record whose outcome is a doomed inevitability. The fulcrum is a gathering of young Israelis and Palestinians participating — far from home, in Germany — in a “vacation from war,” a trip that includes sojourns to the beach, shopping, and tours of Nazi and Holocaust sites, along with discussion between the two groups that doesn’t really get anywhere.
Perhaps there’s value in simply bearing witness to what everyone has to say, and Beller does provide context — fears stoked by terrorist attacks on one side and brutal police action on the other, the limitations from — and of — bureaucratic and literal walls, the invocation of each people’s histories. But the film is a jumble, with no sense of meaningful interaction, not even between a young Palestinian boy’s family and the Israeli cardiac surgeon who repairs his life-threatening heart condition, which requires years of care.
The young people arrive in Germany with preconceived notions and seem destined to leave with them intact. If there are cases where Palestinians and Israelis come together to find common ground, Beller hasn’t found them, and it’s not clear from her film whether the relentless troubles, which so clearly need a political solution, will ever be mitigated by any discovery of humanity in any corner of Israel or its occupied lands, by either side.
In the Land of Pomegranates
Directed by Hava Kohav Beller
First Run Features
Opens January 5, Lincoln Plaza Cinema