Gossels’s films capture human connection in Holocaust rescue, Israel-Palestine conflict

McCaulay Singer-Milnes

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Credit: Markel Uriu

Award-winning filmmaker Lisa Gossels will encourage discussions on peace, rescue and genocide from Feb. 7-9 when she screens her documentary films “My So-Called Enemy” and “The Children of Chabannes.”

“The great thing about Lisa’s films is they really do emphasize the possibilities of goodness in human beings. The films make us aware of our own potential for rescue and as peacemakers,” said Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Literature Patrick Henry.

Gossels’s 1999 film”The Children of Chabannes,” follows the efforts of people in Chabannes, France to rescue Jewish children during the Holocaust. This event connects to Gossels’s own history, as her father and uncle were among the children saved.

“The people (of Chabannes) are proud that they had no religious affiliation whatsoever. They are children of the French Revolution who believed in fraternity and equality,” said Henry. “The people who organized didn’t want to save the children because they were Jewish, they wanted to save the children because they were children.”

The film juxtaposes scenes of the Holocaust with survivor interviews.

“She received an Emmy award for outstanding historical programming, so she is able to intertwine interviews and history,” said Henry.

“My So-Called Enemy,” her most recent film, follows a group of young Palestinian and Israeli women, as they travel to New Jersey to participate in a dialogue with their “enemies.” The film then follows six of the participants for seven years after their time together, chronicling the impact of their experience as they return to “the war zone.”

“I was impressed with her transition from Holocaust studies to peace studies which seemed like a very logical and correct move,” said Henry. In addition to the question and answer sessions held after the screenings of both films, “My So-Called Enemy” will also serve as the basis for a multi-faith discussion held on Wednesday, Feb. 9.

“I’ll be interviewing Lisa, and I will kind of give some questions to frame the discussion and hopefully spark other questions and then open the floor. I hope people of faith and people interested in this issue will be willing to participate,” said Adam Kirtley the Stuart Coordinator of Religious and Spiritual Life, who will moderate the discussion.

Kirtley hopes this discussion will resonate with students because of a specific commonality: age.

“Part of what will be appealing is the characters in the film are the same age as Whitman students. [The film] begins when they are 17 and follows them for a period of years after that,” said Kirtley. “What is powerful about that film is the extent to which relationships are able to develop despite the fractured backgrounds and baggage that these people have when they first meet each other.”

Representatives from various faiths will be present at the discussion to ensure that a wide range of opinions are considered.

“We have invited Islamic people, Jewish people from a Synagogue here, and people from various Christian churches to come and have a discussion about this movie, and what kind of solution a multi-faith approach might bring to this terrible situation in Israel and Palestine,” said Henry.

As the organizer of this event, Professor Henry hopes the films will inspire students “to recognize their own capacity for rescue and their own capacity for peacemaking.”

“Peacemaking begins with individual people … we are capable of rescue,” said Henry. “My So-Called Enemy” will be screened on Feb. 7 and “The Children of Channabes” on Feb. 8. Both films will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Kimball Theatre in the Hunter Conservatory. The multi-faith dialogue will take place on Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. in the Jewett Lounge.

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