A Review of the Film: “The Stones Cry Out”.
The theater was almost full at Merrill’s Roxy on Sunday evening, July 27 in Burlington VT for the showing of Yasmine Perni’s “The Stones Cry Out”. A photographer by training, Perni was introduced to the audience and she spoke briefly, explaining that all the voices we would hear in the film were Palestinian Christians. Beginning and concluding with the ringing of church bells, the images immediately transport us to a land both ancient and holy.
We saw photos from the early 20th century – families celebrating weddings and gatherings, dressed and looking very much like any family gathered in New York, with the signature architecture of Jerusalem and Bethlehem all around. The film focuses on one particular village – Kifr Bir’am. Most of the voices we hear are from those who remember having to leave their homes and land with the promise they would be able to return. As the villagers slept, the UN voted to partition the land and to create two states. The joy and carefree expressions of the early decades of the century give way to fear, uncertainty, and finally anger as a dispossessed people realize they are losing what for centuries had been theirs.
There is power in the film as Palestinian Christians tell their story. One is left wondering: How could a people so recently dispossessed, herded into concentration camps, exterminated by the millions – how could such a people – the Jewish people – turn and do the same to others?
In and of itself, the film offers only one perspective. This is its strength and its weakness. One of the “voices” in the film tells us the Israelis intend to rid the land of Christians in order to make the conflict one solely between Muslims and Jews.
Another “voice” in the film asks: Where are the Christian Churches? Why is there no outcry over what is happening to us here? But we can ask the same question with regard to the Holocaust. Weren’t people of faith too quiet for too long? The film suggests a unity – The religion of Mosses and Jesus are one, says a priest. But what of the generations of virile anti-Semitism that justified Christian persecution of Jews?
One of the challenges facing the world when it comes to violence in the mid-East is to engage in dialogue. When all was said and done, I left the viewing of “The Stones Cry Out” with sadness. A people have been violated. Their land has been taken from them. Their pain is real and their tears are wet and heavy with the burden of living under occupation. I watched and listened – not to a dialogue, but to the Palestinian Christian monologue; and I wonder …
It is essential for the world to hear their story. This particular telling, powerful as it is, will not take us closer to dialogue. It creates yet another camp, another place where pain has become the norm. It is also a political film. While not the intent of the writer / director Yasmine Perni, I don’t think it is possible to create such a piece and leave politics out of it.
A technical note: The voices were almost universally out of synch with the video. That bothered me at first; but then, I began to think it an apt metaphor for that treasured and tragic part of the world – a place, a people, a politic out of synch with what they could be experiencing and enjoying together.
A word of thanks to Peter Cook at First Congregation Church and Nancy Wright of Ascension Lutheran and the other groups who brought the film and its director to us.