Today, on the 28th day of the war that followed Hamas’s slaughter on October 7th, there were quite a few important speeches related to the war. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for more humanitarian aid to Gaza. Hezbollah’s Nasrallah expressed his satisfaction with Hamas’s actions but admitted he had no prior knowledge of them. Benjamin Netanyahu contradicted Blinken’s words and issued a threat to Nasrallah, in typical Netanyahu fashion.
But you can read all that in the newspapers. Instead, I would like to share an optimistic initiative from the Anis Cultural Center in Jaffa, which also serves as a movie and theater house. Anis caters to all the residents of Jaffa, Arabs and Jews alike, as well as guests from outside the city. A few days ago, I saw an invitation for a free movie at Anis on Facebook. The invitation included a detailed explanation of the location of the safe room at the center.
It was the first time that we went out since October 7th. The hall was quite empty, which reminded me of the empty spaces during the time of Corona. The chosen film was ‘Past Lives’ (2023, directed by Celine Song), a sensitive story about childhood friends in Seoul, a girl and a boy, who had feelings for each other. They were separated when they were 12, as the girl’s family emigrated to Toronto in search of a better life. The girl herself had big dreams of fame and success.
After an intriguing prologue, the film takes us back 24 years to the childhood in Seoul. In this scene we meet the girl, her sister, and the parents in Seoul as they plan the move; they seem like a happy family. But when we see the girl again 12 years later, her family is absent. She talks to her mother on the phone but has already left Toronto in search of better prospects in NYC. At this point in time, after she and her old friend were able to find each other online, they start having intense and emotional talks on Skype. Once he asks her what happened to her dreams, and it seems that she has scaled them down. Then, despite the obvious deep affection and their yearning for each other, they stop talking. The girl, whose name in Nora now, decides to call it off because there is no chance of them getting together in the foreseeable future, and she does not wish to move back to Seoul and be an immigrant again.
Twelve more years pass, and Nora, now a playwright, is married. Her childhood friend suddenly announces that he is coming to NYC to see her. Their short reunion brings up feelings of missed opportunities, a strong connection, but at the same time some alienation, it is sad that they have to stay apart.
In a way, this film was a very successful choice for this time of war: it transported me away from my immediate life, and gave an opportunity to think about other things. It suggested that childhood feelings are the truest of all, and that even successful immigration remains a trauma. Those who leave never feel whole, neither in the new world nor in the old, and those who stay feel abandoned. Nora remains with her husband in NYC, but she has lost a part of her heart and perhaps given up her Korean identity. In the beginning of the film, when the two young sweethearts are granted a ‘date,’ with their mothers present, the boy’s mother can’t understand why the other mother sitting next to her plans to leave. There is no good answer, not every decision to leave brings happiness.