Sunday, May 5, 2024

Film Review: Foragers, final film in a series for Palestine; screening set for May 7

Plants, People and Apartheid graphic.

By Tyler Barton

Who decides how land is used? That’s the question at the heart of so many conversations happening in Adirondacks today about housing, zoning, water rights, indigeneity—hell, even the emergency services building. It’s also the question at the heart of “Foragers” (2022) by Berlin-based artist, Jumana Manna.

Her documentary film is screening for one night only at the St. Eustace Episcopal Church in Lake Placid this Tuesday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. “Foragers” is an intimate look at how Palestinians living in Israel and the West Bank preserve their culinary heritage by enduring surveillance, harassment, detention, extortion, and dozens of smaller but no less dreadful injustices.


The film is shot in the Golan heights, the coast of the Sea of Galilee, and in East Jerusalem, where Manna was born. Her family, homeland, and culinary heritage become the landscape of the film, but “Foragers” also uses fiction to construct reliable police  interviews between Palestinians and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority that governs their right to forage, thereby eating away at their history.

Naturally, it opens with a drone shot. The effect isn’t sweeping majesty, but more like a lurid hovering. Even with its many indulgent passages of beauty—dogs running in a field, her aging parents sunbathing on the hazy coast, two women peeling spiny green stalks with their hands and just vibing—a low hum of tension pervades every scene, especially those that do not take place inside a person’s home. The short moments of peace outdoors are often interrupted by the whup of helicopters, four wheelers roaring over fields of food, gravel crunching beneath the tires of cop cars.

It begins to unfold how certain plants—the artichoke-like y’akkoub, or za’atar (wild hyssop)—are pursued, harvested, smuggled, cherished, sold, and prepared with distinction by Arab families. Foragers who are caught make their case to the camera in scenes that explore what the inside of interrogation rooms sound like to a people so policed. The question underlying each interview: how long until the fines turn to prison time? Thankfully, the acting in these one-shot dialogues is purposefully stilted to tip the viewer off that the documentary is veering into a composite, a kind of auto-fiction.

It is, after all, an art film. The artist, Jerusalem-born Jumana Manna, makes her career as a sculptor as much as a filmmaker. When the film was on view at the Museum of Modern Art PS1, the exhibition included 19 other works of sculpture the critic Rana Issa called “playful and ghostlike.” There’s a playful and ghostlike mood to the film as well. The fact that Israel’s bureaucracies seem to know so much about their subjects’ movements cannot compete with the fact that Manna’s knows her subject—home—better than any spy ever could.

Home in “Foragers” means a man’s love for strays, the coolness of a sea. The photography throughout the film is gorgeous, but entirely natural, authentic, and memorable. There’s a scene where the camera is inside a herd of sheep as it moves like liquid through the field. Cows lie in the wind. Plants grow wild. And then a forager bushwhacks beneath a highway she can’t use on her way to look for food.

The word itself never appears in the film, but the apartheid is everywhere. We are constantly reminded of the surveillance, the fact a man’s every movement could be used against him in some supposed court of law. The perspective here is angrier than it is sad, which—like the film’s closing image—gives it an edge. The extinction politics of “Forgers” is personal, specific, and pointed, so it’s a shame to have to wonder if that’s why the Wexner Center recently had to cancel a panel on which Manna had been asked to sit called, ironically enough, “The Creative Future of Food,” part a series called (wait for it) “dialogues on art and social change.”

Much like the first film (“My Tree” by Jason Sherman) which kicked off this series in Lake Placid back on April 9, the climax of “Foragers” is an interview between the filmmaker and an Israeli official, an ’akkoub farmer who oversees (legal) production of a plant that can nowadays only be obtained through commodification. The conversation underscores the hypocrisy of a policy that not only bans the collection of a wild plant but transfers complete ownership of the crop’s market to Israelis and away from Palestinians.

Manna asks the farmer, “Why are these ’akkoub farms only owned by Jews and not Arabs?

“Arabs don’t have land insurance. If there’s crop failure, it’s a total loss. Here in the kibbutz, they’re insured.”

The farmer has answers to all her questions at first, but as Manna challenges him and follows up time and again, the conversation becomes more uncomfortable, and admissions are made.

“Y’akkoub and za’atar are banned,” the farmer says, smiling. “Because Arabs like them very much.”

This screening of “Foragers” (graciously donated to the series by the filmmaker herself) is important not only because the work is illuminating, challenging, and beautifully made—but it’s also an opportunity for Adirondackers to contribute to the cause of helping Palestinian families to evacuate from war-torn Gaza.

Donations will be collected to support four Palestinian GoFundMe campaigns created to give suffering families the chance to escape the unprecedented violence that has ravaged their densely populated enclave (Gaza is 141 square miles in size, whereas the Adirondack park is over 9,000 square miles) for the last 7 months.

As the Israeli military continues to threaten an all-out ground invasion of the town of Rafah, families in Gaza have become even more desperate to escape, and your contribution can help save lives.

Who decides whose land belong to whom?

What structures hold up these power system?

How does it feel to be subjected to a power system you have no say in?

If these questions have been on your mind lately, this exclusive screening of “Foragers”, and the patient, accessible, respectful
conversation that will follow it, is where you want to be on Tuesday, May 7.

Provided photo.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com




27 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    This post has no place in an Adirondack forum.

  2. Froggy says:

    Good Grief!

  3. ADKresident says:

    Seriously? Let me rename the headline here: Anti-Semitism and Cherry-picked Support for Innocent War Vicitims is Alive and Well in the ADKs.

  4. Linda says:

    It doesn’t benefit, nor is it helpful to Jews in the US or world wide to equate critique of Israeli policies with Anti-semitism. On Saturday there were thousands of Israeli’s in the street critiquing Netanyahu’s handling of the war. Its safe to say that they would not be called anti-semitic. https://www.voanews.com/a/thousands-of-israelis-protest-demand-return-of-hostages-/7598182.html

    Peace Now in Israel has since 1978 been advocating for policies that promote peace and about the role that illegal settlements have played in undermining Israeli democracy.

    https://peacenow.org.il/en/about-us/who-are-we

    In the early 1990s, after identifying settlements as one of the largest obstacles to the two-state solution, Peace Now established Settlement Watch, taking upon itself to track and analyze developments in the settlements. Through research, analysis, and exposure of settlement developments, Peace Now works to prevent settlement expansion and stop illegal settlement activity. The Settlement Watch team is internationally acclaimed for its credibility and reliability and is regularly cited by Israeli and international media, governments, and NGOs.

    “In recent years, Peace Now has been emphasizing the negative impact of the ongoing occupation and expansion of settlements on Israeli society. Along with the economic and political harm, the moral and societal damage resulting from decades of control over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank is becoming increasingly evident. As a result, Peace Now is not only working towards peace, but also defending the democratic values of the State of Israel.”

    • Bill Keller says:

      The conflict has been on going since May 14, 1948 the day that Israel was founded. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 broke out when five Arab nations invaded territory in the former Palestinian mandate immediately following the announcement of the independence of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. Israel has fought a number of conflicts with various Arab forces, most notably in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2006, and 2023–present. There have been many attempts at conflict resolution since then. For over 75 years the Palestinians could have made peace like their Arab neighbors but didn’t. You reap what you sow.

  5. louis curth says:

    Most movies these days don’t seem to have much relevance to the Adirondackers that I know. I’m thinking of our residents and visitors who love Adirondack nature, cherish our open spaces and our rural life style, and, maybe most of all. are a pretty independent bunch(some might call us stubborn).

    This article, by Tyler Barton, invites readers to view “Foragers”, a movie that seem to challenge different – sometimes opposing – views, held by people of our region.:
    The “Plants, People and Apartheid” film series seems intended to offer people of conscience and all critical thinkers, an opportunity to better understand the peripheral circumstances playing out in the on-going heartbreaking Palestine/ Israel conflict. And perhaps it could also offer a mirror into ourselves?

    Could this film & discussion help Adirondackers to value each other as a “community” and tolerate our differences better? Or will it just highlight those differences, and make it even harder for us to work together ?

    They say; “truth is the first casualty of war”, but they also say; “knowledge is power”.

    • ADKresident says:

      Could this film & discussion help ADKers to value each other as a community? Possibly. However, at ‘this’ time when there are presently still 132 hostages being held in Palestine, it’s simply unwise to discuss ‘Israeli policies’ particularly since the Oct. 7th attack (their 9/11) is still so raw. Also, did we forget already that there are still American hostages being held captive in Palestine by Hamas?

      So, unless this film and ‘discussion’ also condemns the actions of Hamas and is calling for the freedom of the innocent still being held captive in Palestine and what they are doing to the Jewish people as well, I have zero tolerance for this ‘film and discussion” at this time. IMO, the timing is insensitive to every Jew both here and abroad, particularly with what is happening on our college campuses.
      How will it not stoke further division, antisemitism and place blame on the Jewish people? I guarantee you, it will.

  6. Tim says:

    People should see it before criticizing — or praising — it. This is how division and hate get started, i.e., without facts.

    • ADKresident says:

      Oh, come on. If this were a film with even a hint of criticism or bias towards blacks or LGBTQ there would be outrage. But since it is towards the Jews and obvious from the description that it is a hit piece on Israel, it’s tolerated. Antisemitism is currently on the rise in America and if we do not nip it now, history will repeat itself..

      • Boreas says:

        I can’t be outraged about something I have not seen. There is plenty of opportunity for that AFTER I have viewed the films. This article only made me aware of the presentations.

  7. dedirt says:

    Thank you all for your comments ,.,. no one wants to talk about the terrible things happening in Gaza to the Palestinians as well as the last 50 years of Israeli domination of a people thrown out of their homes. At least this is a conversation among Americans on a banned topic for the main media.

    • ADKresident says:

      On the contrary. Where are you getting your ‘history’ of the Middle East and what are your resources to make such a shallow / ignorant statement? If anything and to say the least, your research needs to go back thousands of years, not just 50, to get even a minute glimpse of the conflict in that land. And to say that any American w/our immature, and ideologically framed cultural mindset has even an inkling of understanding of the historical reality and turmoil of the Jew/Arab conflict is a generous understatement. We are but babes w/a haughty mind in this young country in comparison, and like teenagers that don’t know what they don’t know, we need to look in the mirror at our own spiritual and moral decline that is happening here and fix the issues in our own communities before we go pointing the finger at other nations, telling them what they should/should not be doing.

      After all, when was the last time we were surrounded by countries that do not even want us to exist? Our words and protests here in the comforts our beds and popped up tents are but dust in the wind– we have no clue what it is like to live in a home w/a bomb shelter because of daily threats. We are but spoiled brats with big mouths that carry a little, useless stick.

  8. louis curth says:

    When I posed my question;”Could this film & discussion help ADKers to value each other as a community?”, and ADKresident replied;”possibly” I was elated!

    Yes, it was a very tepid “possibly” with some caveats, but at least reader silence seemed ready to face up to the suffering of innocents and try to better understand the roots of this emotionally charged subject. to me that is one small step in the right direction on the roadmap to help us find how to work together to solve our many problems, and make the Adirondacks the best it can be for all.

    I cling to the belief that Explorer/Almanack has the best potential to be the ring that binds us (with apologies to JRR Tolkien), as Adirondackers, no matter our different backgrounds, religions, races and persuasions. This site already has many working tools. i.e.; good writers like Dick Monroe, Peter Bauer, Dave Gibson, and my fellow ranger Gary Lee, to name just a few. And let’s not forget Melissa, our “cracker jack” editor, and the team of fact- based staff writers led by Jim Odato. If we focus on the future, who knows – we may even win back some younger TikTok readers who are rebelling against the hypocrisy of their elders just like many of us used to do….

    Anybody else got some other thoughts to add?

    • ADKresident says:

      Louis, I concur with the idea that the majority of people do want peace, and a loving community but it all comes down to individual choices of the heart.
      The horrors of any country that is in the trenches of war and the innocent that suffer is something we all should be sympathetic towards and have compassion for….and I think the majority do.

      But the truth is we pick/choose according to the narrative of the day. How many people are thinking of the innocent Russian citizens and children? I assume very little to zero. There is so many suffering worldwide, are in prison camps for their faith, tortured and even beheaded. I recently read in Eritrea in East Africa where Christians are being held by their gov in small shipping containers in the heat w/zero air circulation and only let out 2x daily w/one bucket to use as a bathroom. Some have been held captive for over a decade w/only their only crime is not renouncing their faith. It is hard to even imagine for us, but it is many, many people’s daily reality throughout the world yet we only hear about what is broadcast in the media and politically advantageous.

      When we ‘pick sides’ of who is the ‘greater victim’, is where I am having difficulty and IF this film were held in a synagogue, I may have a differing and more hopeful opinion regarding it’s intent. But I cannot see how, in any way, how this will contribute to peace or edifying to the Jews, ‘ at this time’ with antisemitism on the rise as we speak, and regardless of the wonderful writers/editors of the AA, I believe it to be simply unwise to promote now.

      • Boreas says:

        Indeed, both “sides” are victims of geopolitics and human nature. I don’t understand how watching a film could make the problem worse. Are they propaganda films? I don’t know. Do any of the commenters here know if they have not seen them. The titles seem innocuous enough, but I won’t condemn any films out of hand before I have at least seen them. I am a big boy and I reserve the right to get up and walk out if I find any of them offensive. But I can’t fault AA for bringing the films to our attention.

        • ADKresident says:

          As you know, Boreas, disagreeing is not the same as finding fault. One can believe something is unwise without pointing the finger.

          I do not apologize for seeing the intent here anti-Israel:

          “Donations will be collected to support four Palestinian GoFundMe campaigns created to give suffering families the chance to escape the unprecedented violence that has ravaged their densely populated enclave (Gaza is 141 square miles in size, whereas the Adirondack park is over 9,000 square miles) for the last 7 months.”

          It is as if Oct 7th never happened, Israel has no right to defend themselves and that evil attack is now being somewhat justified and/or overlooked and they need to ‘just get over it’ and comply.

          • JohnL says:

            Since most of the international funds going to Gaza are controlled by Hamas and go to their military wing (not for the humanitarian purposes for which it is intended), it’s fair to assume that any GoFundMe monies will go to the same place. In my opinion, anyone donating money to Gaza at this point will be donating to the next Oct 7th. Hamas is the problem. When they are GONE, the area can think about moving forward.

            • ADKresident says:

              Exactly! The Palestinians do not need to be freed from Israel, but Hamas. However, it is my understanding (I can be wrong) that Hamas was voted in by the Palestinians, so much has to do with their Islamic beliefs/ideology and the deep hatred towards Jews for centuries. (Something intellectuals/humanists in the US will not even acknowledge) Therefore, the root of much of the ME conflict is never truly discussed or even ignored here so we play wack-a-mole with terrorist groups, and In many ways fund them for political power by being easily emotionally manipulated.

  9. Linda says:

    I grew up donating pennies for Israeli trees in my Sunday School; My grandfather was a cantor in an Eastern European synagogue and then here in the US. My grandparents essentially left Europe because of multi-century anti-semitism and pogroms.
    But that does not blind me to what we can see for our own eyes, when land theft is taking place facilitated by the current Israeli government. More importantly many Israelis — yes Jewish Israelis – do not all support the illegal settlements in the West Bank; As I posted before, there are Israeli organizations speaking out just on these issues.
    To cut off a discussion because it is somehow anti-semitic in my mind undermines the significance of true anti-semitism.

    • ADKresident says:

      Of course there are organizations against the Israeli gov. and what is claimed as ‘illegal’ settlements or ‘theft’ by Israel in the West Bank. Politics in the Middle East are just as polarizing as they are in the US and a major cause of constant contention and division. Having said that, I simply disagree w/you and your stance here and no, that does not undermine the significance of true anti-semitism except for, maybe, in your mind as you have stated.

  10. Trailogre says:

    Arent these the same people that
    lost their mind over a confederate flag sticker on a truck…..

    Hippocrites…………

  11. Paul says:

    Yes, the article is letting us know about this screening, but it is also asking for donations for a cause. “your contribution can help save lives.” You have to be very careful these days, social media and any media can be very manipulative. News outlets are using this far too much these days since it is all about ratings…

  12. louis curth says:

    May I offer a couple of observations about this film thread which has 22 comments thus far:

    * First, I agree with Boreas. How can we form an opinion when we have no actual report on the film or the actual screening that took place at St. Eustace in L.P.? Melissa, I wish that Ex/Al folks would do a better job following up on such announcements & news releases on hot topics. As far as I know, we have never heard whether McKibben’s new Adirondack based “Third Act” Chapter even still exists? And then there was that workshop at SLU about calming childrens climate anxiety. What was the outcome? Now this film screening sits in limbo too?

    * Paul and ditto from Susan saying that this film screening topic has no business being discussed here. I’m sure many others agree, but I totally do not. If this forum is to have value to Adirondackers, surely it is in getting us to realize we can only solve our problems if we are willing to confront them, educate ourselves with facts, and then work together to find common sense fixes for the people of our Adirondack region.

    * We are increasingly living in a media desert at the mercy of a free-for-all social media, and corrupt politicians who shamelessly lie and gin-up hatred, while they get rich on an endless stream of dark money from special interests.

    * It makes me sad that no comments offered so far seem to value how important this site can be to all of us. I believe it can educate us and help us find our way back to making our government leaders get back to work for us instead of catering to special interests and their dark money.

    * Lastly, my sorrow only grows over the non-stop agony of children and their mothers in Gaza, but many excellent comments in this thread also help me (and I hope others) to better understand anti- semitism and its complicated history. That is an example of the value that this forum can provide for all of us if we let it.

    • Paul says:

      Louis, special interests lie on all sides of the issues. Environmental groups like Protect the Adirondacks for example clearly are a “special interest” group, I don’t think the would deny that. Their special interest is the environment. This site is clearly a outlet for groups like theirs. Just do a search for their name for stories at this site. I just did one with their groups name in italics and got 1760 results.

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