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About A Slim Peace

VARIETY

May 13th 2007
Tribeca
A Slim Peace
(Docu -- U.K.)
By JAY WEISSBERG
A Discodog Prods. production. (International sales: Film Sales Corp., New York.) Produced by Charles Lambert. Executive producers, Ben Funnell, Andrew Herwitz, Davide Romieri. Co-producer, Yael Luttwak. Directed by Yael Luttwak.

Novice helmer Yael Luttwak uses the universal desire for weight-loss as the perfect excuse to bring Arab and Israeli women together in "A Slim Peace." Clever premise flies, thanks to strong personalities overcoming budgetary limitations and a certain lack of structure, with real progress made until the daily realities of a divided Israel overwhelm the giant steps forward made by women trained to fear the other side. Docu's novelty should earn it a popular place in Jewish fests as well as small-screen broadcast.
Body language says it all at the first meeting of a diet support group composed of highly educated Palestinians, secular and religious Jews, and Bedouins: the discomfort is tangible as women who would never even look at each other are forced to confront their fears of the other. Getting settlers to sit down with Ramallah residents was Luttwak's biggest challenge, but over the course of six sessions, the women not only lose weight but bridge their ingrained mistrust, highlighting just how geopolitics artificially narrows perspectives and sows seeds of hatred. Though the outcome one year later is less than hoped for, the applications are huge.
Camera (color, HD), Yvonne Miklosh; editors, John Mister, Carol Salter; music, Avshalom Caspi; sound, Tomer Blayer; sound design, Peter Hodges. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (World Documentary Competition competing), May 4, 2007. English, Hebrew, Arabic dialogue. Running time: 60 MIN.

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WASHINGTON POST

April 27th 2007

Amid Turmoil, Mideast Cinema's Subtle Shadings
By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2007; C01
A clutch of new movies from the Middle East being shown at this year's Tribeca Film Festival delivers some unexpectedly cheering news from that beleaguered region: that despite the ravages of war and displacement, cinema cultures from North Africa to Lebanon to Israel to Iran are eminently capable of producing vibrant, subtle work.
It is particularly fitting that these films are making their American debuts at Tribeca, which was founded in 2002 largely as a response from downtown Manhattan to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In the aftermath, with diplomacy often taking a back seat to military action and belligerent grandstanding, films play a commensurately important role in fostering understanding across cultures. "Fate had a little bit to do with it," Tribeca Executive Director Peter Scarlet said of the more than a dozen films from the Middle East that are being shown this year. "I've always believed in the importance of international films being shown in a country where, for all our great blessings, we tend not to pay much attention to other parts of the world."
Some of the movies, like Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi's "Half Moon," will be showing up in theaters later this year; others will play the festival circuit, looking for a distributor. One that viewers will want to look out for is "Making Of," which won the Gold Tanit award earlier this year at the Carthage Film Festival. Directed by Tunisian filmmaker Nouri Bouzid, the fictional film chronicles the radicalization of a 25-year-old break dancer living in Tunis who comes under the sway of Islamic jihadists. The film combines the verve of a dance musical with the street reality of the 1945 classic "Rome, Open City."
Bouzid makes things even more interesting by eventually smashing the fourth wall and having his lead actor, Lotfi Ebdelli, break character to ask the director where the story is going. Reflecting many of the questions, anxieties and dead ends that fuel fundamentalist conversions -- but also subverting the stereotype of the terrorist as a heartless automaton incapable of ambivalence -- "Making Of" exhibits the sophisticated self-consciousness that characterizes the work of the Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Moshen Makhmalbaf.
If "Making Of" displays unabashed artiness, two much more rough-edged documentaries exemplify another part of the cinematic spectrum. Yael Luttwak's "A Slim Peace" is a cinema verite account of a group of Israeli and Palestinian women who find common ground in -- where else -- losing weight. After organizing a group of women interested in losing a few pounds, the filmmaker, the women and two dietitians get together for weigh-ins that inevitably become political consciousness-raising sessions.
Some encounters are predictable (Jewish settlers meeting their first West Bank dwellers), but there are some unexpected twists: a Sephardic Jewish woman reveals that, as an indigenous Arab, she feels much more akin to the Palestinian women than the American settlers. A Bedouin woman breaks out of that tribal stereotype -- of a deeply sexist and insular culture -- and turns out to be the film's most self-empowered feminist.
Inadvertently true to its title, "A Slim Peace" offers a relatively slender sampling of the myriad issues and histories that weave through contemporary politics in Israel. And although it suggests the possibility of communication within that freighted context, it also hits obstacles, such as when one of the Jewish settlers suspects one of her new Palestinian acquaintances of destroying an Israeli playground. Despite the obvious optimism of Luttwak's enterprise, her film ultimately suggests that the hardest habits to break aren't about food, but the psyche.
"A Slim Peace" touches on the migratory nature of identity in Israel; that theme also suffuses the heartbreaking documentary "9 Star Hotel," which provides an intimate look at migrant workers in that country. Filmmaker Ido Haar, using a hand-held camera, followed a group of Palestinian laborers as they slip across the Israeli border to work illegally on an Israeli construction site. Conveying the camaraderie and intense physical danger faced by these resourceful outlaws, "9 Star Hotel" resists casting them as victims, or their unseen Israeli employers and security forces as demons. Rather, it presents -- without rancor and with deep pathos -- the irony of dispossessed young men who would normally be lauded for eschewing violence and striving to make a living, but find themselves building someone else's future.
At least two films set out to put the region's disputes into a somewhat lighter context (until things inevitably get dark). Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox ("Yossi & Jagger," "Walk on Water"), perhaps the most commercial filmmaker of the group, has a new film, "The Bubble," that follows a young, gay Jewish reservist who, when he's off duty, runs an alternative record store in Tel Aviv. Shot through with the pop sensibility of a Nick Hornby novel, "The Bubble" is part romantic comedy (he becomes involved with a Palestinian guy he meets during a stint at a checkpoint) and part political meditation, as the main character tries to transcend the bitterness and retribution that engulf Arab-Israeli relations.
While portraying an often unseen, left-leaning aspect of Israeli politics -- the characters at one point attend an anti-occupation rave, and one has a mother who's involved with the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian activist group Women in Black), "The Bubble" sadly succumbs to hopelessness in the end. (The Arab-Israeli dispute has been the context for inventive cinema in recent years; two standouts are "Divine Intervention" [2002], Elia Suleiman's visionary tragi-comedy, and "Paradise Now" [2005], Hany Abu-Assad's affecting portrait of two terrorist recruits, which was the first Palestinian film ever nominated for an Oscar.)
Of the Middle Eastern films playing Tribeca this year, a group of digital shorts made in Lebanon during the conflict with Israel last summer deals most directly with politics, but more personally and obliquely than op-ed tracts. (Another intriguing film from Lebanon, "Falafel," described in program notes as the Lebanese "After Hours," was added too late to be screened for this article, as were "My Father My Lord," about an Orthodox Jewish man struggling with his spirituality, and "The Last Jews of Libya.") "We Are Here," a group of film essays from seven filmmakers, shows young people from Beirut to the Beqaa Valley coping with the daily realities of war, from the extreme (director Wael Noureddine turning the camera on himself as he snorts drugs) to the mundane (Ziad Antar's candid portrait of a woman waiting in her car for hours because of a gas shortage).
The most arresting film in the lineup is also the most unsettling. At once an apolitical thriller and tone poem to a lost city, "The Last Man," by Lebanese filmmaker Ghassan Salhab, features Carlos Chahine in a mesmerizing performance. He plays a physician living in present-day Beirut, who in the midst of a mysterious outbreak of murders realizes he may be a vampire. Like Peter Lorre in the German expressionist classic "M," Chahine is a transfixing, haunting screen presence, and as he makes his way through the sinuous Beirut streets, he reinvests them with the cosmopolitanism for which they were once famous.
"The Last Man" may mark something of an artistic turning point, as a film that isn't necessarily about politics but inextricably of it. With luck, Salhab and his fellow filmmakers will have a chance to find wider audiences, and break through the narratives that have long dominated Western ideas about the Middle East to create deeper and more lasting understanding.

www.salon.com

May 3rd 2007

Taking it off for peace
A new documentary asks whether uniting Israeli and Palestinian women around weight loss is the way to lasting peace in the Middle East.
By Amy Reiter
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Photo: DiscoDog Productions
A scene from "A Slim Peace"
May 3, 2007 | Can the united struggle of 14 women of widely varying backgrounds to reduce the width of their waists advance peace in the Middle East?
That's the question filmmaker Yael Luttwak asks in her new movie, "A Slim Peace," which had its world premiere last week at the Tribeca Film Festival. Luttwak -- who is half-Israeli, half-American, and now lives in London -- was working with Palestinians and Jews in Israel, and trying to lose some weight herself, when the peace process broke down in 2000. "Something in my head just connected the two," she says.
To pull together the disparate group of women for her documentary, Luttwak solicited strangers in cafes and surveyed friends and friends of friends, including secular urban Jews, religious Jewish settlers, Bedouin Arabs, Palestinians -- young and not so young, well-off and less so. The women met regularly in Jerusalem, some of them traveling past checkpoints, an hour and a half each way, to bond over their body issues, and maybe -- just maybe -- find common ground.
At first, sitting around a circle with two dieticians -- one Israeli, one Palestinian -- the women are tensely polite to one another. But as the meetings progress, inhibitions are shed along with the weight, paving the way for angry confrontations and, ultimately, a tentative détente.
Luttwak sat down with Salon in New York to discuss her film, her process and her fierce belief that peace in the Middle East is at least as attainable as losing those last five pounds.

Did you make this film with a particular goal in mind?
I was really passionate about making this film. I believe in peace. I care a lot about the Middle East. I care about the fact that Israelis and Palestinians are continuously killing each other, and I'd like that to stop. I wanted to see what would happen if we brought them together over something as universal as weight loss -- because who doesn't care about their weight? Could they come together on something as neutral as that?
Where did you get the idea to marry weight loss and the peace process, two things that one doesn't normally think of as fitting together?
It came from my own personal life. I have always struggled with my weight. And I've seen a lot of women around me struggle with it. It's not that I'm obese -- though I've never been stick thin -- but I've always felt a little chubby. I've always had my own body issues. I think it's hard to find someone who doesn't.
So when I lived in Israel, and I was working with Israelis and Palestinians, I lost 10 kilos, or 20 pounds. I went to Weight Watchers, and I sat in these meetings and I saw these Middle Eastern women -- and they're so full of life and spice. And it's all so intimate, because weight has so many emotions attached to it. It's so loaded. There's success and there's failure and there's pain. Then at the same time, in 2000, the peace process broke down -- and it's never been repaired since. So something in my head just connected the two.
You assembled the group of women in the film. What sort of characters were you looking for?
I wanted to bring together women that would never be willing to meet. I didn't want to do a weight-loss group of rich Israelis and rich Palestinians who were already liberal and who were for peace. I wanted to go as far as we could.
It was very important to me that it be a program that the women would benefit from, too. They're opening up their personal lives and sharing of their lives and their bodies and their families. So I got amazing dieticians, luckily: the head of nutrition at Hadassah Hospital, Israel's premier hospital, and a Palestinian dietician, who is amazing in her own right. It's a new approach in that it's not about dieting. Diets don't work, based on research. It's about changing the way you relate to food and changing your lifestyle. We had a lot of weight-loss success stories.
In terms of the peace process, there didn't seem to be that much direct conflict in the group, but there was a sort of pervasive tension.
I think that's a great observation -- and it was my observation as well pretty early on. You may be bringing together women who would never normally meet, but they don't sit in a room and start hitting each other. They were very polite, which is very unusual, because in the Middle East people are not that polite. They're usually known to be maybe a little aggressive, certainly less inhibited, very casual. So everyone was on their best behavior. The tension was much more subtle. As Ichsan, the Palestinian woman, says, "It's like we're on a blind date."
But then, of course, when Hamas was elected, there was an out-and-out argument. Weight loss went to the side and the discussion became about politics. The big thing for me was that the women came back after that meeting. They had this big fight -- a true argument, a screaming match -- but they came back. And that was the testament. But I think that also reflects reality and people. When you have a fight with someone -- whether it's your best friend, your lover, your brother -- you have a fight and it's healthy and you get it out. Then, if you care enough about that person, you come back. And they did.
Next page: "Once you realize they're people, you're people, it's fine"
There's a scene between the spitfire Palestinian woman, Ichsan, who may be the most compelling character in the group, and Dasi, the Israeli yoga teacher whose father-in-law was well known in the Israeli independence movement. They become friends, but when Ichsan goes to visit Dasi at her home in a well-to-do part of Jerusalem, things sort of blow up between them. What happened there?
They asked me to turn off the camera. As a filmmaker I would have wanted to have kept the camera on, but as a human being who follows the rules, I turned it off. Because they really fought. I think you see that it's uncomfortable. And you see Ichsan at the end and she is left alone. So I believe that the audience understands what happened.
Also, we've seen arguments before. So, in some ways, it's banal. What's interesting is these characters and the subtleties, the nuances. This is a case where you have two people who get along really well. As human beings, they have similar senses of humor, similar ways of operating in the world. They're very fun, feisty women. And then it hits them. They completely leave the headlines and see each other as people -- and then they go back to the headlines. They recognize this is too big for us, this gap that we have. And that's what I think you see.
It's a pretty disappointing moment. Did the friendship -- which was really the strongest one between any of the women of different backgrounds -- cool off after that?

It's not that the friendship cooled off. I think they recognized that, although they got along as people, there were bigger obstacles, bigger than them, bigger than their humor and personalities. That's what I think they recognize at that moment, in that house. And that, I think, is what you feel.
At one point in the film, Aviva, an Israeli woman, says she feels like she has far more in common with the Palestinians in the group than the Jewish settlers, most of whom are American. It suddenly became clear that the group could be divided along all sorts of lines, secular and religious, well off and poor. It wasn't just Jews vs. Arabs.
Life is complicated. We all know it's not black and white, though we always seem to go there. Was I surprised that certain women didn't get along and others did? Yeah. I was surprised about a lot of things. But I'm not surprised about the fact that a secular Israeli gets along better with a Palestinian than she does with an American settler. They have a lot more in common. That's the whole problem, I think. If only Israelis and Palestinians were a little more different. If only they were like Asians and Swedes, I think we would have a lot less problems. It's because, I think, they are originally cousins -- because they talk similarly, they like the same foods, they move similarly, they have very similar mannerisms -- that they have conflict like families have. I was really glad that Aviva expressed that, because that's a voice I don't think we hear very often. I really don't think you hear from the secular Israeli who just wants to live, to do their thing.
The group you pulled together was all women. What do you think the role of women in the peace process is? Are women particularly equipped to forge peace?
I've given that a lot of thought. The reason why I wanted an all-women group is because, according to research, support groups, weight-loss or otherwise, are slightly more intimate if they're single sex. I wanted to create a group that would become intimate. I needed to raise the stakes.
I chose all women partly because I'm a woman, but I also believe that the reason that there is conflict, that people are aggressive toward each other, is because they're fearful of each other. And why are they fearful? Because they've hurt each other. On a simple level, when someone hits you in the face, you become fearful that they'll hit you again. So you put up a barrier, you put up a wall, you take a gun, you put on a mask, you have soldiers. For some reason, I think women are able to react in a less aggressive way. They'll sit down. They'll eat together. They bear children. It's sort of a simplistic answer, but it's my simplistic answer.
Was there ever a moment that you felt frightened? You went into some areas that someone with your background wouldn't normally journey into. I'm thinking specifically of Ramallah. How did you feel going into those areas?
Listen, I didn't tell my parents every time I went into Ramallah. I didn't share all the details of all my travels, because I know that people get scared. But it's fear of the unknown. It's fear of just not being in a place where everybody is like you. But once you realize they're people, you're people, it's fine. The first time I went into Ramallah, it was like anything -- the first time you ride a bike, the first time you eat anchovies, you don't know, it's unknown. You don't know what it's going to feel like, you don't know what it's going to taste like. It's the same thing. But you shouldn't let that stop you from exploring the unknown. Your world might become totally different as a result.
Is that a takeaway message from the film?
I don't want to give a takeaway message. And I'm certainly not interested in manipulating anybody that goes to see the film. But I'm very passionate that we can have peace in the Middle East. I really believe it. It's just our own minds that stop it. I think what it can show is that when you do bring people together, people that for thousands of years have hated each other, within a few hours walls break down. It's possible.

www.thereeler.com

2nd May 2007

If the idea behind Yael Luttwak’s documentary, A Slim Peace, seems outrageous –- uniting Arab and Jewish in Jerusalem in the common goal of a smaller ass –- the execution is nuanced with wit and passion. Luttwak convinced Israelis, Palestinian, a Bedouin and two settlers (some of the women were religious and some not) to join a sort of weight watchers group, though her disingenuous claim that the group will not be political is immediately questioned by the Bedouin woman, who agrees to it nevertheless. Those there women all live quite close to each other, some of the Jews claim to have never met an Arab, and vice versa. In the run-up to and aftermath of the Palestinian election, which saw Hamas put into power, tensions ranneth over the ostensible chatter about fiber grams and calorie counts. Luttwak’s subjects are staunch women, fascinating subjects all, especially when, after the group disbands, most of them acknowledge that their superficial commonalities will never bridge their deep divides. This is a rare look at how life is lived by the middle class in this region; the native Israeli woman was surprised to find that she had more in common with the Arab from Ramallah than the humorless American Super-Jews from the settlement, and you might be too.

 

www.thehuffingtonpost.com

7th May 2007

Yael Luttwak| BIO

My Road Through Tribeca
Posted May 7, 2007 | 12:25 PM (EST)

Read More: Breaking Politics News, Mike Leigh

My first feature film A Slim Peace premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in the World
Documentary Competition this past week.
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The idea is a bit crazy. To bring together a group of Palestinian, Israeli and American settlers together in a weight loss group. After three years my idea became a finished film. Along with my producer we raised the money to make the film. I asked 100 people for support and 1 person said yes. Almost everything about making A Slim Peace was a challenge. From finding women who would normally never meet to join our group to finding a place where both Palestinians and Israelis would be willing to meet and share their lives and stories. Also, to create a story from these meetings between the women while remaining neutral and objective and to make as good, entertaining and thought-provoking a film as possible!
But the last hurdle is having the chance to share the film once you have made it. Luckily, my mentor and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mike Leigh believed in me from the very beginning. And Peter Scarlet and his team at the Tribeca Film Festival believed in the film and selected A Slim Peace for the festival.
But the pinnacle so far was to share A Slim Peace with hundreds of New Yorkers this week. The audiences have been amazing and engaged and asked me lots of challenging questions!
Meeting the other filmmakers has been a true privilege as well. It is a lonely profession at times and to be able to share and compare notes of the experience you can learn a lot from a fellow filmmaker.
Of course this is still the beginning. The challenge now is to try secure a distributor to enable an even greater audience to share in the journey that the women undertake.
The real excitement though comes in the chance to invite other women from across the Middle East to participate in the initiative, to use it as a model to get even more people meeting and talking. I plan to head out to Israel again next month, to try facilitate another group and continue the work.
Though for now, it has a been a fantastic couple of weeks here at Tribeca. A festival which makes dreams come true for filmmakers like myself to share our stories with such great audiences, and for that opportunity I am truly grateful.

 

Jerusalem Post

Mar. 22, 2007 17:43
Cinefile: Israelis at Tribeca
By HANNAH BROWN

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Israeli films will have a strong presence at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, which runs from April 25-May 6, as has been the case throughout the festival's history. Actor/director Robert De Niro, producer Jane Rosenthal and philanthropist Craig Hatkoff founded the festival in 2002 as a way to help revive downtown Manhattan after the 9/11 terror attack.
The complete program will be available on March 28 at the festival Website, www.tribecafilmfestival.org, but so far, several Israeli films have been listed as part of this year's program, including the feature, My Father My Lord (Hufshat Kaytz), directed by David Volach, which tells the story of a troubled ultra-Orthodox family on vacation, starring Assi Dayan and Sharon Hacohen Bar. It was shown here last fall at the Haifa International Film Festival.
Ido Haar's 9 Star Hotel, about Palestinian workers
in Israel illegally who work building Modi'in, will be part of the World Documentary Competition. 9 Star was one of two films that split the documentary prize at the Jerusalem International Film Festival in July.
One Israeli film that will have its world premiere at Tribeca is Yael Luttwak's A Slim Peace, which is about a women's weight-loss group in the West Bank that includes both Palestinians and settlers, and seems likely to bring a new perspective to an old issue.
Eytan Fox's films are always popular at Tribeca, and his latest, The Bubble, will be shown in the Encounters section. The documentary, Sons of Sakhnin United is credited as a US film, but it tells the story of the breakout success of the B'Nei Sakhnin soccer team, which is a multi-ethnic team from an Arab-Israeli town.
Israeli films have been picking up prizes at every major festival so far this year and if the trend continues, Israel could win a few more at Tribeca.

 

www.ontheface.com

Dieting is a political issue
by Lisa Goldman on Wed 25 Apr 2007 04:57 PM IDT | Permanent Link | Cosmos
In the ongoing - and often ham fisted - attempts to humanize the faces behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, documentary director Yael Luttwak has come up with a rather unique idea: take a cross-section of Israeli and Palestinian women, put them on a diet program together, and watch what happens. The film is called A Slim Peace.

You can watch the trailer here - and see how even the simplest questions or ideas are political. When the Bedouin (Israeli) woman is told that the group of dieters will include Jewish settlers and Palestinians, but the film is not political, she immediately points out that it IS political - just by virtue of the participants' identities. When the American-born religious West Bank settler is asked to explain whether she lives in Israel or..?, she answers that the question is too political. When a young woman who is doing her graduate degree in biology in Tel Aviv is asked whether she prefers to be called Arab-Israeli or Palestinian, she shrugs and says she really doesn't care; then she explains how difficult it is for her to find a man, and again she is frustrated by the political reality in which she lives. A Palestinian journalist from Ramallah explains that she often overeats out of frustration when she has to wait for two hours to get through a checkpoint on her way to work - then confesses that the last time she felt good about herself was when she was in love, a long time ago.

This is how the director describes her film:

"In A Slim Peace, 14 women--Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouin Arabs, and American settlers in the West Bank--are brought together with the shared goal of losing weight and find out they have far more in common than they ever would have imagined. A Slim Peace takes a revealing look at the universal struggle for acceptance, understanding and personal transformation in a land of intractable conflict. This is a video diary made by the film's director."

 

www.yourfashionnews.com


Amid Turmoil, Mideast Cinema's Subtle Shadings
27.04.2007 07:31
A clutch of new movies from the Middle East being shown at this year's Tribeca Film Festival delivers some unexpectedly cheering news from that beleaguered region: that despite the ravages of war and displacement, cinema cultures from North Africa to Lebanon to Israel to Iran are eminently capable of producing vibrant, subtle work.
It is particularly fitting that these films are making their American debuts at Tribeca, which was founded in 2002 largely as a response from downtown Manhattan to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In the aftermath, with diplomacy often taking a back seat to military action and belligerent grandstanding, films play a commensurately important role in fostering understanding across cultures. "Fate had a little bit to do with it," Tribeca Executive Director Peter Scarlet said of the more than a dozen films from the Middle East that are being shown this year. "I've always believed in the importance of international films being shown in a country where, for all our great blessings, we tend not to pay much attention to other parts of the world."
Some of the movies, like Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi's "Half Moon," will be showing up in theaters later this year; others will play the festival circuit, looking for a distributor. One that viewers will want to look out for is "Making Of," which won the Gold Tanit award earlier this year at the Carthage Film Festival. Directed by Tunisian filmmaker Nouri Bouzid, the fictional film chronicles the radicalization of a 25-year-old break dancer living in Tunis who comes under the sway of Islamic jihadists. The film combines the verve of a dance musical with the street reality of the 1945 classic "Rome, Open City."
Bouzid makes things even more interesting by eventually smashing the fourth wall and having his lead actor, Lotfi Ebdelli, break character to ask the director where the story is going. Reflecting many of the questions, anxieties and dead ends that fuel fundamentalist conversions -- but also subverting the stereotype of the terrorist as a heartless automaton incapable of ambivalence -- "Making Of" exhibits the sophisticated self-consciousness that characterizes the work of the Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Moshen Makhmalbaf.
If "Making Of" displays unabashed artiness, two much more rough-edged documentaries exemplify another part of the cinematic spectrum. Yael Luttwak's "A Slim Peace" is a cinema verite account of a group of Israeli and Palestinian women who find common ground in -- where else -- losing weight. After organizing a group of women interested in losing a few pounds, the filmmaker, the women and two dietitians get together for weigh-ins that inevitably become political consciousness-raising sessions.
Some encounters are predictable (Jewish settlers meeting their first West Bank dwellers), but there are some unexpected twists: a Sephardic Jewish woman reveals that, as an indigenous Arab, she feels much more akin to the Palestinian women than the American settlers. A Bedouin woman breaks out of that tribal stereotype -- of a deeply sexist and insular culture -- and turns out to be the film's most self-empowered feminist.
Inadvertently true to its title, "A Slim Peace" offers a relatively slender sampling of the myriad issues and histories that weave through contemporary politics in Israel. And although it suggests the possibility of communication within that freighted context, it also hits obstacles, such as when one of the Jewish settlers suspects one of her new Palestinian acquaintances of destroying an Israeli playground. Despite the obvious optimism of Luttwak's enterprise, her film ultimately suggests that the hardest habits to break aren't about food, but the psyche.
"A Slim Peace" touches on the migratory nature of identity in Israel; that theme also suffuses the heartbreaking documentary "9 Star Hotel," which provides an intimate look at migrant workers in that country.