Film-maker Shira Richter creates a catalyst
for dialog

Shira Richter

Two States of Mind

written and directed by Shira Richter

Two actresses, an
Israeli from Tel Aviv and a Palestinian from Ramallah are invited to compete
in a jeep rally in Morocco as `The Peace Team’. With no experience, but plenty
of enthusiasm they agree, imagining a Club-Med type vacation. What a surprise.
A roller coaster of despair, humor, courage, and politics awaits them. Two
women, two cultures, two personalities, cooped up in one jeep for 12 scorching
days and frozen nights in the unforgiving Sahara Desert. They must cooperate
if they are to survive this `vacation’.

The two women are
in real life, an Israeli and a Palestinian — Naomi lives in Tel Aviv and
Achsan lives in Ramallah. They met while working on a play about co-existence.
Naomi, a peace activist, has been working with Palestinians for years and
Achsan wanted to know for once and for all who this enemy really is.

Achsan [l] and Naomi [r] at the rally

I interviewed film-maker Shira Richter upon
her return from Festival Feminale in Germany where Two States of Mind
was screened and well-received.

Filmed in May 2000,
and edited when the Intifida broke out in September 2000, Richter says the
intifada polarized issues that she had seen from behind the camera at the
rally. And then the situation blew up. The section in the film where the
two women speak by phone after the rally was, in fact, filmed four months
later, when the Intifida broke out. Although the political situation then
made it difficult for Naomi and Achsan to meet in person, Richter felt it
was necessary to have the women speak together under the new political reality.
But as much as they declare that they are friends, their phone conversations
are political and accusatory.

Richter questions
if she managed to portray the two sides evenly. “Did I show the real balance
of power — or was one side favored?” She tried to show the sensitivies of
each side. In the film, the women begin to cooperate only when they start
listening to each other. The past of each must be respected, before they can
continue, which mirrors the political situation “almost too good,” says Richter.

The two women must
cooperate — one as navigator and one as driver — in order to complete the
rally. The challenges and roadmines to cooperation come from different directions:
on a personal level they must learn how to help each other get through the
hardships of the Sahara Desert and the minimalist living conditions. Although
they try to leave politics out of their interaction, the press and cameramen
badger them with questions and don’t allow them to connect. Can their friendship
survive these conditions?

The concept of the
film is to show that two women from opposing nations can cooperate and get
along in certain areas. “Where is cooperation working?” questions Richter.
Her theory is that those areas must be expanded to bring eventual cooperation
between Israelis and Palestinians.

The film has been
screened in Europe and Israel.

Interview and article
by J. Isaacson

Naomi, American born, has a B.A. in Special Education, is an actress
and a stilt walker.
Achsan, a war widow of a high-ranking Fatah activist, has two children.
She works as an actress, producer, and writer in the emerging Palestinian
TV station.
Shira Richter, artist and film director, screenwriter, poet, actress,
painter, and photographer, was born in the U.S. Her family came to Israel
when she was 7. She lives in Herzliyya with her partner
and 10 month old twins.


To request a private screening, click here.

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