Friday, December 9, 2011

Movie Review: Tackling For Peace

A couple of days ago I saw the movie Tackling for Peace, which is a documentary about an Australian mom who had a dream to form an Israeli/Palestinian squad of Australian rules football players as a peace initiative. The movie is a documentary that tracks the progress of the Peres Center for Peace from putting together the idea, to recruiting players from both sides, all the way up to a tournament all the way across the world in Australia.

Although the previews made it indicate that there would be much political tension between the players seeming as how they come from such different worlds, it didn't appear in the movie itself as much as I was expecting with two exceptions: Several of the Israeli players didn't want to wear uniforms that contained the flags of both peoples on them, and then later on of the assistant coaches admitted that his attitude of "this is our land because God said so" was changed by his experience with the Peace Team. But more on that later.

You certainly get to know some of the players and recognize just how difficult the job of forming this team was as the season progresses. They certainly don't seem ready for the tournament once they finally get there, and much of the early challenges to overcome included getting the players together. Most notably is that Palestinian players had to get up very early so that they can pass through all the checkpoints and still be on time for practice. They also had to deal with threats to their livelihoods and accusations of "collaboration" from their fellow Palestinians.

Things I learned from the movie that I didn't know before: Apparently there are some Palestinians that are giant Africans. If you look up at the movie poster, the fellow on the far left with the hipster beard is a Palestinian, and so is the guy next to him. So the Palestinians have ethnic diversity as well among their population, the same way Israel does.

When the athletes finally make it to Australia their hosts are confronted with another problem: Food. Muslims need halal food, Jews need kosher food, and pretty soon Ramadan began so they were all up at 3 o'clock in the morning just so they can be ready for the day. Naturally this led to a lot of fighting and I reacted with my usual, "that's religion. Making everyone's lives harder." After that though there were some awesome sequences of the games, including the Peace team defeating China and Finland. The sequence where they walk into the championship stadium was pretty great as well.

But then we had the ending, which goes the same way many other peace initiatives went. Everyone went back to their lives. One of the Israeli captains joins the army, and then when he goes to meet the Palestinian with the beard, they get into an argument over Cast Lead and Hamas. The Palestinian declares that "Hamas are freedom fighters," the Israeli says that "Hamas wants to destroy Israel," and the Palestinian glowers. So even though they have become friends on a micro level, the whole Peace Team escapade hasn't brought them any closer to actually overcoming the obstacles to making peace.

Which makes me wonder about the goals of these peace projects. The two sides aren't simply fighting because they can't get along. If that were the only problem they would have solved it by now. They are fighting because in some ways they are products of the environment in which they are now living. Outside forces are acting on them to keep things at a level in which violence isn't constantly exploding, but there isn't peace either. Based on an interview with one of the Palestinian players, things are just bad enough to annoy them but not enough for them to actually do something about it. In that interview the player talks about traveling through the checkpoints and it's comparable with a commuter complaining about traffic. Not so much the "terrible humiliating experience" that Code Pink likes to describe.

So would I recommend the movie? Sure. You get to see a side of people that you wouldn't ordinarily, and the sports are exciting too. Good emotional moments round out the package.

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