‘Colliding Dreams’ takes even-handed look at Zionism

Some of the vintage footage in “Colliding Dreams” will bring back bright moments of international hope. There are leaders from Israel and Arab countries, signing agreements at Camp David and Oslo, shaking hands and pointing the way toward the future.

Well, we’re in the future now. Those hopes didn’t pan out — or at least they’ve gone seriously in some wrong directions.

“Colliding Dreams” is a well-timed documentary that takes Zionism as its subject. The film defines Zionism as the resolve to found a homeland for the world’s Jewish people, a goal that was achieved in 1948 with the formal creation of Israel.

The film, directed by Joseph Dorman and Oren Rudavsky, goes back well before that date to explore its subject. It’s the story of a brutally persecuted people who gravitated, decades before 1948, to the Middle East.

Jews cultivated the land and built infrastructure, in the midst of the Arab people who were already there. The film tracks the way an initial cooperation between the cultures gave way to anxieties and violence, especially after the 1917 Balfour Declaration gave a British promise to oversee a Jewish state in Palestine.

From there, the film goes from statehood up to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the hands of a fanatical Israeli nationalist. The film sees this as a decisive moment in the Israeli back-and-forth between those who seek peaceful co-existence with a Palestinian state and those with more belligerent strategies.

Putting the emphasis on Zionism may sound like a one-sided argument, but Dorman and Rudavsky have tried to paint the entire picture. The film’s large roster of articulate talking heads is divided between Israeli and Palestinian observers, giving a broad range of opinions and viewpoints.

If anything, the film’s concentration on an even-handed outline, which leaves out many historical incidents (the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics is not included, for instance), will leave hardcore believers on both ends of the argument dissatisfied.

The cumulative effect of all this is informative but saddening, especially if you believe in the idea that a two-state solution sounds like, well, a solution. All those newsreel handshakes are beginning to look like ancient history.

Still: The film’s calm, measured approach is itself an attempt to bring sanity to a tinderbox situation. It may not be the solution, but it looks like an admirable start.

“Colliding Dreams” (3 stars)

A calm documentary that seeks to define Zionism, thus presenting a history of the establishment of a Jewish state. Both Israeli and Palestinian voices are heard in this thoughtful effort at moving the conversation forward.

Rating: Not rated; probably R for violence

Showing: Sundance Cinemas

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