An inevitably controversial movie about Israel ‘Birthright’ trips

October 19, 2012

Americans attend a Birthright trip on their way to Israel. (David Karp/AP)

Here's a foreign affairs-themed movie to look forward to: "Birthright" will tell the story of a young American Jewish man who finds love on the program, which since 2000 has provided free educational trips to Israel for Jews age 18 to 26. Meant to strengthen participants' Jewish identities and connection to Israel, they are paid for by the Israeli government, Jewish groups, and private donors. (Full disclosure: I attended one of the trips, which I enjoyed, though I was surprised by organizers' sometimes-overt pressure to adopt conservative religious views and move to Israel.)

The "Birthright" movie is an independent production, not affiliated with the program. According to Variety, it plays off the trips' well-known potential for making romantic connections among the young travelers. The story begins with a "shy Jewish boy who follows the girl of his dreams" on one of the trips, according to Variety, which reports that the script is already written.

Then comes the twist, the execution of which could bump against some of the touchier controversies around Israeli politics: the American boy somehow gets lost in Palestine (presumably the West Bank), where he "falls for a Palestinian girl and finds himself the subject of a media circus and minor political fiasco," Variety says. It's not hard to foresee the moral of cross-cultural understanding, though what they mean by "minor political fiasco" is anyone's guess.

Production for the movie starts next year. The director is Marc Evans, who has made some art house and horror films, as well as documentaries on Welsh poetry and Black Panther Mumua Abu-Jamal.

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Max Fisher | October 19, 2012