Two hundred fifty Israelis and 250 Palestinians come together in a grassroots organization dedicated to nonviolence in "Encounter Point." Pic offers unique glimpses into the hearts and minds of those who have turned reasons for hatred into a crusade for tolerance. Intelligent docu could wrest limited release from an admittedly crowded field.

Two hundred fifty Israelis and 250 Palestinians, who all have lost loved ones in the ongoing conflict, come together in a grassroots organization dedicated to nonviolence in “Encounter Point.” Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha’s well-crafted docu follows members of the Bereaved Families Forum as they strive to persuade others to stop the cycle of killing. Pic offers unique glimpses into the hearts and minds of those who have turned reasons for hatred into a crusade for tolerance, braving the scorn of enemies and compatriots alike. Concise, intelligent docu could wrest limited release from an admittedly crowded field.

Filmmakers concentrate on Robi Damelin, an Israeli woman whose son was shot by a Palestinian sniper in the Occupied Territories, and Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian activist whose entire family was imprisoned at one time or another and who had a brother killed by Israeli soldiers.

Both Robi and Ali are incredibly articulate, dedicated and personable advocates, admitting their doubts and discouragement to the camera but convinced that there is no other road to a solution than bilateral cooperation between peoples. Far from an ideological tract, the pic traces the process by which these two daily confront walls of anger and prejudice.

Ali, on a visit to a second brother who was wounded, tries to convince his sibling and his wounded friends that it is necessary to work for Palestinian autonomy through nonviolent means, a position met less with anger than with blatant incredulity.

Robi guests on an Israeli talkshow and patiently fields the hostile questions of an angry host who cannot understand why she is not seeking vengeance. Instead, Robi wonders aloud why her son was sent to risk his life guarding extremist settlers in the West Bank.

On a visit to a settlement with other Forum members, Robi’s patience is exhausted when she must sit through a sanctimonious lecture on the settlers’ supposed divine right to the land.

One of pic’s most fascinating subjects is ex-settler Shlomo Zagman. He and Ali meet and, although they will never be soul brothers, their civil discourse represents a real possibility for dialogue. To quote Ali, “I don’t have to love Israelis to make peace with them.”

Dynamically edited by co-director Bacha (who also co-wrote and edited “Control Room”), pic deftly avoids schmaltz in its delineation of grief and its celebration of cross-cultural activism.

Encounter Point

U.S. - Israel

Production

A Just Vision production. Produced by Ronit Avni, Nahanni Rous, Joline Makhlouf. Directed by Ronit Avni, Julia Bacha.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Mickey Elkeles; editor, Bacha; music, Kareem Roustom; sound, Tahir Kykhr Eddin, Alex Epstein. Reviewed at Tribeca Cinemas, New York, April 4, 2006. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- Discovery.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Ali Abu Awwad, Robi Damelin, Shlomo Zagman, Sami Al Jundi, Tzvika Shahak, George Sa'adeh. (English, Hebrew, Arabic dialogue)
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