Festivals & Awards:
- FFP Film for Peace Film Festival, Toronto, Canada 2021
- Gold Remi Award: Documentary Film: WorldFest International Independent Film Festival, Houston, Texas, U.S.A. 2021
I was born in Nigeria. I have cousins who are Christians and Moslems. My friends and playmates were Nigerians, Lebanese Arabs and Jews. We celebrated religious festivals and birthdays together. We played together, ate together and were proudly reserve members of one of the worst youth soccer teams in history.
In the summer after my tenth birthday, it all changed. It was our first semester home from high school. My Jewish and Arab friends started avoiding each other. By the summer, they were no longer friends. They had never even had a fight!
My mother tried to explain it to me. But I read the newspapers too and it didn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t understand why events a world away, of which we are not part of, have come between my friends.
I think I’ve been subconsciously trying to bring my friends together since that summer. I wrote a short story about a Palestinian boy and an Israeli boy living in different parts of Jerusalem who became friends through soccer. That story led me to this group of friends in the war zone of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I knew of Gaza but I had never heard of Sderot. I travelled to Sderot and later Gaza to meet these unlikely friends who have chosen love over hate. In a region filled with voices of vengeance and war, they are the other voices – the voice of hope. That started the journey of ASWAT ACHERIM (Other Voices).
Before I started this story, there was a lot I took for granted in life. I never understood the importance of a hug or kiss for a child on the way to school or park. You take it for granted that you will see them in a few hours. In this neighborhood, there is no such guaranty. Every goodbye may be the last.
I know what it means to live in the shadow of fear and death. While making this film, I damaged my knee and required surgery after falling as I ran to a bomb shelter during an attack. I missed being at the site of a bombing in Gaza by a couple of minutes because of the audacity of our sound mixer to spend a few extra minutes with his morning coffee.
The world of ASWAT ACHERIM is unlike any other – deep pain, mistrust, destruction, fear and hope.
This is an inspiring story in the midst of despair, promise on an island of gloom. This is a story that will warm the iciest heart. For me, life is about hope and the promise of tomorrow. ASWAT ACHERIM is a film about that hope and promise that comes with it. This is the story about the other voices in the conflict that you hardly ever hear. They are the hope of an entire region.