[By Rob Edelman]

The Ruins of Lifta offers a thoughtful, multi-layered depiction of contemporary Israeli-Palestinian relations, now playing in New York and Los Angeles.

Once upon a time, Lifta was a small village located by the western entrance to Jerusalem. Its residents were Palestinians, it was left abandoned in 1948, and it is the only settlement that has not either been completely destroyed or repopulated by Jews. At the outset, we are told that the ruins of Lifta “bear silent witness to the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

At the center of the film is Menachem Daum, who codirected with Oren Rudavsky. On one level, The Ruins of Lifta is not so much a documentary as a memoir, a personal journal pieced together by Daum, the offspring of Holocaust survivors who was born in a displaced-persons camp in Germany. Daum had long been convinced that, simply put, any non-Jew is not to be trusted and that Jews and Palestinians are natural enemies. This is what he was taught by his father and it’s understandable, given his father’s history. Plus, there is footage of Daum’s father firmly noting that “even the best of them” should be avoided.

The younger Daum was convinced that his background allowed him a certain moral high-ground. But now he is not so sure; his perspective is changing. This happens as he visits Lifta, explores its history, and befriends Yacoub, a Palestinian whose family was booted out of Lifta. According to Yacoub, this is his home. His roots are in Lifta, and he is vehemently against a proposal to completely eradicate Lifta’s history by obliterating all the abandoned dwellings and replacing them with 21st century-style luxury housing.

The Ruins of Lifta is a complex film that deals with a multitude of issues relating to Israelis and Palestinians—or, Jews and non-Jews. While one can understand a Holocaust survivor’s mistrust of non-Jews, the point is made that, after the war non-Jews looked after abandoned European Jewish cemeteries and during World War II non-Jews risked their lives to shelter Jews. At the core of The Ruins of Lifta is a question, one that can apply to any issue: as one ages and spends more time experiencing the world and mixing with a range of individuals, can one change his or her perspective, his or her long-held point of view on a subject? Also, given the specific issue examined here, will Lifta ever be returned to its former residents? Finally, can the future of Lifta somehow serve as a symbol for a reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians?

To learn more about the film, see where it is playing, and watch the trailer, click HERE

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024