Promises is a very engaging, heartfelt and thought provoking documentary about seven children in and around Jerusalem.
The seven children [there are actually 11 children but the focus is on seven] are made up of four Jewish kids and three Palestinian kids [ages 9 to 12] all of whom basically live within 20 minutes of each other but all of whom have a completely different view of the world they live in.
The Jewish children include twins who have grown up in a secular household, a young boy who has grown up in an orthodox household and another boy who's traditional [and religiously devout] parents live in the West Bank.
The Palestinian children are made up of a religiously devout boy whose parents own a business in Jerusalem, a girl who lives in the refugee camp and a boy who also lives in a refugee camp.
Filmmakers Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg [who is himself in the documentary] and Carlos Bolado [who did the editing] at first just let the kids be themselves without confronting them on their beliefs. What is revealed is both fascinating and disheartening The kids are not shy to express their opinions about Jews and Palestinians and they tend to be rather articulate. But it is pretty obvious that they are a bit dogmatic too and have no experience outside of how they have been raised and what they have been told. More significantly they have never talked with each other.
Although there are seven children the documentary ultimately comes to concentrate on four; the twins and the two refugee camp Palestinians. B.Z. decides to try to get them together, let them play and then get them to talk a bit about politics.
Shot on video over a couple of years and covering a lot of ground in and around Jerusalem Promises gives a really fine overview of what led to the current situation and does it in an insightful and unique way by focusing on those who make up the future of Israel.
The documentary came out in 2001 and was shot between 1995 and 2000.
The movie is shot in Digital video with an aspect ration of 1.33:1 and is very clean, sharp and well lit.
Audio is in Arabbic, Hebrew and English with English subtitles which cannot be removed.
The extras are very good. First up is 2004 Update a 19 minute short that shows us the kids who have since become teenagers and their changing views. The extra give the film a whole new twist. Next is Footage from the kids journey to the 2002 Academy Awards which is a 14 minute section that features the twins and the Palestinian girl on their trip to LA. It is quite good and basically continues the debates and conversations. Deleted Scenes gives us 13 minutes of scenes not included in the original documentary. Original theatrical trailer is good if not a bit sappy - more so than the film anyway. Last up are filmmaker biographies and a promo for a show titled Globe Trekker that co-filmmaker Justin Shapiro hosts.
Promises is an excellent documentary about the opinions of Jewish and Palestinian children who live in and around Jerusalem. It succeeds in taking a simple idea in order to explore a complex issue. The DVD looks great and has a good number of complementary extras.