New film explores bloody 'events of October 2000'

In October's Cry, director Julie Gal describes those events and their stormy aftermath.

jamilla film 88 298 (photo credit: Galex)
jamilla film 88 298
(photo credit: Galex)
In recalling the "events of October 2000," as they are euphemistically called, Israel's Jewish majority largely remembers the riots, when Arabs in the Galilee demonstrated violently against the state and attacked its symbols of sovereignty. But Arabs remember that 13 young Arabs, Israeli citizens, were shot dead by Israeli security forces. In her newest film, October's Cry, director Julie Gal describes those events and their stormy aftermath from the perspectives of the victims' families and the Arab lawyers and civil rights activists who worked on their behalf. The film focuses on two women. Jamila Asleh mourns and seeks justice for her son, Asil Asleh, a 17-year-old student and Seeds of Peace member who was shot at close range. Abeer Baker, a human rights lawyer, is angry and politicized and demands equality. Asleh folds and refolds her dead son's clothes and looks at his picture albums. "I raised him to be a proud Palestinian who would be able to live together with another people. I raised my children to seek peace and quiet contentment," she says tearfully. Baker believes that discrimination against the Arab community is systematic and deliberate. Noting that no Jew has ever been killed by security forces during a demonstration, she says, "How easy it is to kill me when I am in public. I had thought that that kind of killing only took place in the [Palestinian] territories…Arabs do not have the same rights as Jews. Even [the value] of their lives isn't the same." Beautifully filmed and tightly edited, October's Cry is unpretentious and makes no claim to definitive answers. Much of the film details the efforts of the families, lawyers and activists that eventually led to the establishment of the Orr Commission. Yet perhaps because she focuses so sensitively on individuals and emotions, Gal succeeds in moving far beyond the commission and politics and raises deeply troubling questions regarding social justice, civic equality and state responsibility. Wisely, Gal avoids polemics, demanding only that the Jewish majority, for whom the film is particularly poignant, hears others' perspectives. As October's Cry shows, these perspectives remain as troubling and challenging today, nearly six years later, as they were in October 2000 - and perhaps even more so, as the police investigation into the killings is reopened. Gal is an award-winning director and producer of documentary films, and October's Cry has been nominated for the Wolgin Prize in the "Free Spirit" Category at the Jerusalem Film Festival. The film premieres today at the festival at 4:45 p.m. at the Beit Shmuel Theater.