Picture Peace

How making a documentary brought the conflict in Israel and Palestine to life.

By Junior Joe Miller | Photos By Luke Rutan And Joe Miller
Joe Miller
Watch the trailer for "From the Eyes of Hope"

About 50 men, women, and children walked through the streets cheering "1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 … occupation no more" and "viva viva Palestina." It was my first day in the Holy Land, and I was filming a peaceful protest against the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories. Only months before, I knew nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now I was walking alongside two Palestinian girls. Their father was in prison for protesting against the occupation, and they walked and cheered in hope of his release.

I first heard about the conflict when Carl Medearis, author and speaker on faith and Middle East relations, spoke at the summer camp where I worked. I was surprised to learn how much suffering and conflict existed in that region. What had seemed so distant and irrelevant to me became something I could no longer ignore.

I told Carl how I was feeling, and he invited me to go to the Middle East in the summer of 2010 with his family. His daughter and my good friend, Anna, and I planned to create a short documentary that would help students our age better understand the conflict and discover hope for reconciliation.

We arrived with only 10 days to work and a few connections to get us started. Each connection led us to more, and before we knew it, we had interviewed more than 20 people. Each person, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, had a story to tell.

We met Serine Abu Sada, a Palestinian Christian student who is not allowed to see her friends and family who are refugees in other countries because of the conflict. She has found that her hope in Jesus helps her to press forward and seek joy even in the worst of trials. Her friend Said Zarzar told us that he and his friends resist the occupation through "art and music and living, like people who love life."

We also met a group of Israeli teenagers who had just gotten back from a trip to Sweden where they met with Palestinian youth. "We didn't talk about the conflict, or about Israel/Palestine," said Omer Landau, an Israeli teen. "We talked about what you do as a youth, as a teenager, as a human; and what do you like' — stuff that makes us and them people."

Anna and I came back to America to put together the story. After countless hours of hard work, we were able to premiere the film, From the Eyes of Hope, at Seattle Pacific University in the fall of 2010. After the premiere, we showed the film to more than 700 high school and college students. I took the advice of one of my mentors at SPU and entered the film into the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, which is the largest youth film festival in the world. To my surprise, From the Eyes of Hope won the Best Documentary award!

Being able to work on this documentary has been eye-opening. What once was an invisible conflict to me became alive as I met Israelis and Palestinians with powerful stories and a hope that cannot be explained in words. My heart longs to see Israeli and Palestinian people reconcile together. I have discovered that the reconciliation process occurs only through relationships. I desire to see a conflict that is impersonal and distant to most of us become alive and have meaning through the stories told in From the Eyes of Hope. Once these stories are told, we can begin to understand the conflict and take part in the reconciliation process one relationship at a time.

Junior Joe Miller created his own major that combines film, photography, and marketing. He puts his major into practice through Within Broken Borders (withinbrokenborders.com), a media-based organization that he started with a friend to demonstrate the stories of hope that exist in the Middle East.

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