The Other Israeli Film Festival saw the screening of Blood Relations last week, a short film documenting an extraordinary blood donation initiative
Could you hurt someone who had your blood running through their veins? That was the question asked in Blood Relations, the short documentary that screened in the Other Israel Film Festival in New York City last week.
The festival, which presented a collection of internationally acclaimed, award-winning films by and about Arab and minority populations living in Israel, is also one of the foremost presenters of new cinematic works. The Other Israel Film festival brings into focus the most talked about and controversial topics concerning Israeli society today.
Blood Relations tells the story of Ben and Seham, a bereaved Israeli father and Palestinian sister from the Israeli/Palestinian Parents Circle-Families Forum (PCFF) and follows them on their journey to donate blood to save lives on the opposite side, as part of the “Blood Relations” initiative. Two people with arguably the most reason to hate, sharing blood instead of spilling it.
The Blood Relations project began in September 2011 when Israeli and Palestinian members of the Parents Circle-Families Forum, came together to donate blood to each other as the UN General Assembly was meeting to decide the Palestinian authority’s bid for statehood. The blood donations were then shared with hospitals to save lives on both sides.
The project was originally borne out of a global challenge, “The Impossible Brief”, launched by BBR Saatchi & Saatchi Israel in partnership with the Peres Centre for Peace at the 2010 Cannes Advertising Festival. Creative minds from all over the world were invited to present ideas that would bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together.
A group of Palestinian, Israeli and international communication experts judged the submissions, received from all over the world and selected one leading idea: Mutual Blood – the Israeli-Palestinian blood bank.
Soon after the announcement, the PCFF heard about the idea and were inspired to help bring it to life, describing the blood donations as “the ultimate expression of reconciliation”.
After the initial Israeli-Palestinian donations, the project has expanded to include a series of international blood donation events and has attracted the attention of the world leaders, and influential figures across the globe. The group is now involved in talks with governments and global organisations with a view to seeing how the Blood Relations ‘template’ could be used as a platform on the journey towards reconciliation in other conflicts in the world.
The initiative has never naïvely claimed to seek a solution to end the conflict. Now more than ever, regrettably, reconciliation seems like a far and distant dream. It is simply an attempt to see if there is a way to bring fresh perspective to the issues and to remind people of their shared humanity. As bereaved Palestinian sister Seham says in the film: “Maybe the language of the blood is stronger than anything else…I’m not thinking about Jewish or American or whatever, I’m thinking about the human being.”
After watching the film and learning about the Blood Relations project, the Other Israel Film Festival organisers felt compelled to make the film’s messages of healing and reconciliation go even further by offering festival goers and members of the public the opportunity to make a peaceful statement of their own directly after the film. As such, a mobile blood unit was present for the day of the screening.
Members of the public were able to donate blood in support of Blood Relations outside the JCC in Manhattan. The blood drive attracted hundreds of participants and provided a much-needed boost to the city’s blood supplies after many of New York’s blood donation clinics were closed by superstorm Sandy.
The Blood Relations team also began shooting another documentary at the festival that will tell the story of the initiative from its inception to wherever it happens to end up. Where that end-point will be, is still to be determined, but it is clear that it will continue to be an unfolding narrative.
Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
So that’s what the team will continue to do. Keep connecting the dots and see where it leads.
Visit www.bloodrelations.org to watch the film and for more information about the project.
Photo Credits: Saatchi & Saatchi
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