B'Tselem Documentary Wins Grand Prize in Israeli Human Rights Film Festival

'The Boy from H2' follows 12-year-old Mohammed Burkan, a resident of Hebron’s H2 area, which is under Israeli military control

Frame from the film "The Boy from H2"
Helen Yanovsky

A short documentary filmed in conjunction with field researchers and volunteers from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights NGO, won the grand prize at Israel’s Solidarity Festival, a film festival focusing on human rights.

“The Boy from H2,” directed by Helen Yanovsky, won 2,500 shekels ($700) for being the best film in the festival. The award was given on Tuesday evening, the last night of the festival, which took place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

Honorable mentions were give to Uri Smoly’s film “Lido” and Omri Najad’s “Between Kermanshah to Majdanek.”

“The Boy from H2,” which also competed in the short film category at last year’s international festival in Berlin, follows 12-year-old Mohammed Burkan, a resident of Hebron’s H2 area, which is under Israeli military control. Because of the restrictions imposed by the army and the frequent violence in the area, many of its original residents have left. Those who remain are mostly those who can’t afford to go elsewhere.

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Mohammed, who has nine siblings, is periodically detained by soldiers on suspicion of throwing rocks. His life moves between his poor, crowded home and the streets, where he must deal with the constant presence of Israeli security forces and settlers.

The festival’s prize jury called the film a “shattering” cinematic document whose hero “doesn’t try to ‘endear himself’ to the audience or ‘win its heart.’ His screen presence doesn’t allow the viewer to avoid recognizing the authenticity of the reality of his existence – a young boy, soon to be a teenager, with inexhaustible optimism, who tries, with great difficulty, to navigate between his responsibility for caring for a disabled father and his desire to remain a child within the reality of the occupation. Helen Yanovsky’s ability to bring the daily lives of occupiers and occupied – which is systematically kept from the public’s eye – to the screen, with exceptional cinematic talent, builds a picture of a complex world for the audience, beautifully constructed out of segments of basic life which are inconceivably distorted by the reality of the occupation.”

The Solidarity Festival inaugurated its competition for short films on human rights matters just this year in order to encourage local filmmakers to deal with political and social issues. The prize jury consisted of Noit Geva (the chairwoman), Tali Silberstein, Maya Dreifuss, Israela Shaer-Meoded and Yaron Ben-Haim.