Already traveling fast around the university circuit in North America and Europe, the hour-long docu “Frontiers of Dreams and Fears” by Palestinian-American Mai Masri strikes a heartfelt blow for the Palestinian cause. After her “Children of Fire” (1990) and “Children of Shatila” (1998), film caps a trilogy about kids living Pic so cleverly sews in two unexpected events — the Israeli retreat from southern Lebanon and the return of Intifada — they seem scripted, rather than historical events that happen around the two 14-year-old in refugee camps. heroines. Made in association with San Francisco’s ITVS, the film should have strong topical interest for pubcasters and cultural venues hungry for moving, well-told stories from the region.
Mona, living in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, is a sparkling, bright girl whose grim surroundings have not dampened her hopes and dreams. She gets to know Manar, in Bethlehem’s Dhaysha camp, over the Internet. Mona describes herself as a bird and Shatila as a birdcage. There is no water or electricity in the camp, and no jobs or civil rights for the Palestinians in Lebanon.
When the Israeli army left Lebanon, the border between the two countries was temporarily reduced to a few strands of barbed wire. People rushed to this flimsy frontier to get news of family members on the other side. Among the busloads of schoolchildren who arrive are Mona and Manar. The film’s key scene is their meeting — both genuinely touching and emblematic of all the other emotional moments going on around them.
Another close brush with history takes place in the Bethlehem camp. New Jewish settlements rise up on all sides, effectively isolating the Palestinians. Intifada has broken out for the second time, and Masri’s camera captures small boys hurling stones at Israeli barricades. But a classmate of Manar’s is killed, and here, again, the film lets viewers make a strong emotional connection to events that have become numbingly familiar from the nightly news.
Masri carefully avoids getting into religious issues, as in a curious, rather overlong scene in which Shatila’s boys and girls, Christians and Muslims, get together and joke about the opposite sex like kids all over the world. This allows her main point, the urgency of solving the Palestinian problem through the creation of an independent state, to come across forcefully.