This Australian documentary takes us on a journey into the souls of four very special individuals, who are joined together by a shared pain of losing the people most dear to them. Bushra Awad, Meytal Ofer, Bassam Aramin, and Rami Elhanan live separate sides of the border, and are connected via their association with the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families organisation, which aims to assist them in their grief. This is a controversial grassroots movement consisting of broken-hearted people who aim to stand together as one in their shared aims: ending violence and establishing peace.
The film is split up into four main interviews conducted with the primary characters. Bushra Awad is a Palestinian woman who despises the Israelis because her beloved first-born son, Mahmoud, was killed in the conflict. The progression and development of Bushra during the events of the film and the time since her son’s death is incredibly inspiring. A prospected life-long mourner in her jet-black Hijab (a tradition that signifies a melancholic woman) learns to deal with her grief by eventually befriending other women from both sides, something that leads to Bushra eventually leading talks all over the world. The second woman is Meytal Ofer, a Jewish woman whose father was killed by Palestinians and laments having to bring her own children up in a world of pain and destruction. Bushra and Meytal end up becoming associates and colleagues of sorts, but more importantly, friends – and like Bushra expels during the film, “this trauma changes you.”
However, there’s an argument to say that the film’s male duo are the central characters, both of whom are prominent members of the movement. Bassam Aramin is a Palestinian man who spent time in jail during his youth for his involvement in the Palestinian resistance. After educating himself on the history of the Jewish people – admitting to becoming overwhelmed during a film about the Holocaust and becoming discussed with the people at fault – Bassam’s life began a journey to peace, while the experience of losing his own ten-year-old daughter was another key factor into his new way of life. Bassam becomes friends – although, more like brothers, really – with Rami Elhanan, a Jewish man who was born and has lived in Jerusalem his entire life. Rami has also had to overcome the devastating loss of his own daughter because of the conflict, and the shared pain these two men have has bonded them together for life.
The film is also captured quite beautifully as well, in a sort of honest and respectful way. The footage is varied, and it captures these two societies in several ways, from bleak, to mystical, to gorgeous, the presence of which is graceful upon the screen. The director also uses archival footage from several events to add even more context to the stories that are being shared. That being said though, this is not really a film that can be critiqued in the usual way. The events that shape the film are happening as we speak; it’s all over the news: death, terrorist attacks, so much hate and anger, it almost feels wrong to judge any of its technical aspects – they are an afterthought hidden in the background to a much larger and important story.
The Narrow Bridge has a relatively short duration of just 70 minutes, but it packs an incredibly emotional punch. Even though the stories can be morbid and shocking, they also turn into something extremely heartwarming. The movies uses heartache in order to establish its dynamic progression. There ia one special quote that defines this perfectly, and it comes from the mouth of an unnamed Palestinian woman: “To obtain peace, I must talk about my pain first”. It almost puts the conflict to one side for a while as it turns to focus on the quest for peace, the search for friendships through shared pain, and the strength that helps them all through the most difficult of times. It’s an outstanding piece of storytelling and about as beautifully poignant as a documentary can be.
The Narrow Bridge premieres at the UK Jewish Film Festival, which takes places in cinemas and then online between November 9th and 27th.