Jerusalem is Proud to Present at this year's Melbourne Queer Film Festival director Gialdi’s thoughtful and comprehensive document on humanity, fear, single-mindedness and determination focuses on the attempts of an Israeli gay and lesbian group, known as the Open House, to organise and conduct the World Pride festival in Jerusalem in 2006.
Melbourne Queer Film Festival: Jerusalem is Proud to be Present.
Films have a tendency to romanticize emotion. Love, hate and those feelings in between can sometimes become exaggerated or idealised. Nitzan Gialdi’s beautiful, aching; outrageous documentary Jerusalem is Proud to Present; screening at this year’s Queer Film Festival, is a film imbued with such emotion that it elicits a power unseen in cinema in recent years. Gialdi’s thoughtful and comprehensive document on humanity, fear, single-mindedness and determination focuses on the attempts of an Israeli gay and lesbian group, known as the Open House, to organise and conduct the World Pride festival in Jerusalem in 2006. The culmination of which is a 550-metre march through the streets of the holy city.
Gialdi’s sensitivity, which could have so easily been hijacked by the film’s uncovering of hate, sees the documentarie’s crux remain focused on the humanity of the Open House characters and their ability to persevere through hardship. It is the director’s recognition of this humanity that provides the film’s most powerful moments. The notion of a mother’s healing kiss, or a drag queen’s final song far outweigh the bigoted if not surprisingly unified press conference at the beginning of the film. A moment that sees the region’s religious bureaucracy; Muslim, Christian and Jewish, unified for once in their condemnation of the ‘moral terrorists’’ intent on conducting the peaceful march.
The film, shot mostly on the streets of Jerusalem, lends itself to beautifully constructed vérité type cinematography. The lens is filled and focused on the walls and doors of the streets. The movement of smokers outside of the city’s one gay bar, a refuge hidden in the Jerusalem night, stand composed and quiet compared to the riots and bonfires burning in the Mea Sharim, Jerusalem’s ultra orthodox Jewish suburb. It seems Gialdi knew the centre of the film was Jerusalem itself; the story seems to understand that however this tale unfolds, it does so inside the walls and on the streets of this holy arena. The city is as much an inhabitant of the film as anyone or anything else. The soundtrack which peaks with a drag show rendition of the Israeli song Jerusalem of Gold, lends itself more to the violent messages bombarding the Open House’s answering machine or the apprehension in the voices of the activists. Still more disturbingly it is the violent murmur on the street as a gay campaigner is recognised that resonate long after the scene has finished.
For such a beautiful film, Jerusalem is Proud to Present includes moments that are truly mournful. There is an intense feeling of injustice hidden in the face of democracy, an ideology that this film condemns into insignificance. Some moments are purely frightening; there are others that defy logic or compassion, such as Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s insistence that the Lebanese-Israeli conflict that interrupts the film (reminding us of the region’s volatility) is a result of the ‘homos’’ campaigning. Indeed it seems the film smiles, ‘beware the man who can answer all,’ as the Rabbi’s pseudo-diplomatic justifications spew forth. Some scenes are, as stoic as they are touching and serve to remind us that humanity can exist in the darkest of places and times.
Jerusalem is Proud to Present is a wonderful piece of humanist filmmaking, a film that should not be contextualized by its role in the Melbourne Queer Film Festival or as a documentary. It is a film of real power and one of the very few that exist in a world of true morality. A landmark in human rights film making Jerusalem is Proud to Present is one of the must see films of the year.
Melbourne Queer Film Festival:Jerusalem is Proud to Present (FILM + Q&A)
Dir: Nitzan Gilady, Israel, 2007, video, 82min
Hebrew, Arabic, Yiddish with English subtitles
Session 46 6:00pm Tue 24 March 2009, ACMI Cinemas
Director Nitzan Gilady will be taking part in a Q&A in the Festival Club immediately following the screening as a guest of the MQFF