Courageous Doc ‘Disturbing the Peace’ Finds Israelis and Palestinian Reach Across the Border


In the sub-subgenre of documentaries about Palestinians and Israelis meeting to discuss the future, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are nearly always the ones crossing borders into Jewish or American or sometimes German spaces. But Disturbing the Peace opens with Israeli men crossing Qalandia Checkpoint, past signs warning them that “The Entrance for Israeli Citizens Is Forbidden [and] Dangerous to Your Lives,” and heading for Ramallah.

Directors Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young reverse the usual act of border-crossing, and they do not differentiate between Arabic and Hebrew, allowing their subjects to switch between the two and subtitling both in English, signaling that the film is a space for listening, for trying to understand.

Those subjects do a lot of talking. They are mostly members of Combatants for Peace, an organization that brings together former members of the Israeli Defense Forces and former Palestinian resistance fighters, many of whom participated in the First Intifada and served time in Israeli prisons. The Combatants gather in circles on the floor to tell their stories and imagine new political structures, to share meals and make art in the grass. Two women, one Palestinian and one Israeli, get into a heated argument about resettlement and the particulars of a two-state solution. In a radical moment, they talk face-to-face.

The greatest moment of unity comes during a peaceful demonstration in both the West Bank and Israel. With armed Israeli guards in between, protesters gather on both sides of the fence, demanding two states, demanding freedom. They call and chant from across the barbed wire, waving banners and huge papier-mâché sculptures. The soldiers, one of the protesters reflects, look most of all like prisoners.

Disturbing the Peace
Directed by Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young
Opens November 11, Landmark Sunshine