In late August, the Israeli film “Let It Be Morning” by director Eran Kolirin, based on the Hebrew-language novel by Sayed Kashua, was shown during the Chicago International Film Festival. A capacity crowd of two hundred of the city’s cultural elite filled the Chicago Cultural Center for the screening.
The film tells the story of Sami, who lives in Jerusalem with his wife and child. An invitation to his brother’s wedding forces him to return to the Arab village where he grew up. After the wedding, with no explanation, the village is put under lockdown by Israeli soldiers. Cut off from the outside world, Sami watches as everything falls apart.
Following the film, Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Midwest Daniel Aschheim led a vibrant discussion with the audience about the film. Aschheim told the audience that the Consulate, which has supported the festival for the past 18 years, believes in promoting open discourse, even on challenging issues related to complex issues as presented in the film, as part of its commitment to promoting democratic values as a pluralistic society that can accept criticism.
The conversation was lively and stimulating and covered a wide variety of subjects, including the promotion of democratic values in a society that can receive criticism, the Arab minority in Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the cultural scene and social diversity in Israel.
During the debate, an Iranian-Palestinian BDS activist tried to inflame the audience with slurs and negative comments. Aschheim responded to her decisively, and the audience asked to continue the discussion and was not dragged into provocation.
At the end of the event, many viewers shared their experiences and said that while the film was very critical, the discussion that followed helped them understand its context and complexity.
The Israeli Consulate sees great importance in holding such events, as it presented an opportunity to present Israel’s positions to an important target audience.