Films Without Borders intern Raya Darwish talks about her experience at the Jerusalem Film Festival and Cinematheque.

One of the Jerusalem Cinematheque and Jerusalem Film Festival’s indispensible interns is Raya Darwish, a 17-year old girl from the Arab village of Beit Safafa, a few miles out of Jerusalem. She has just graduated high school and, among her many talents, she speaks fluently three languages and is a gifted violinist.

She comes to the festival and cinematheque as part of the work of UK-headquartered Films Without Borders, founded by British documentary filmmaker Jill Samuels as a non-political organisation working with teenagers in areas of conflict.

“When Jill Samuels visited our school and asked who would be interested to make movies, it sounded very intriguing,” says Darwish. “Though my ambition is to study engineering I thought I would give it a try. I started as a producer, working with a friend, Ihab Jadallah, on a short film about my sister, Ahlam, who is a pianist.” The film was obviously good enough to be screened in New York this year for students and the media.

She is very keen on her job as an intern in the Jerusalem Cinematheque. “I meet a lot of new and interesting people here and it opens many doors into the world of the media.” And how does she feel, these days, coming every day to work? “Here I am neutral. We can only hope that at the end of the day, cinema will bring us all together.” And isn’t she afraid? “Why should I be afraid in my own country?,” she asks.

Films Without Borders trains educators to work with young people between the ages of 15-18 and introduce them to the first stages of film production. The group has offices in both Israel and Palestine and given the present circumstances, there was ample reasons for them to worry. But at least in the case of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the worry was unnecessary.

The Cinematheque was a natural fit for Films Without Borders, as it is one of the few places where Jews and Arabs traditionally meet, in a kind of no man’s land, to talk to each other not as belligerent parties but just as human beings.

“We feel we are a pluralist institution, we work with people of all religions and all ethnic origins” says the Cinematheque’s Events Manager and Coordinator Aviva Meirom (who now counts Darwish as her trusted assistant). “We aim to be the home of every single person in Jerusalem, without distinction. And when Jill Samuels approached us recently to help, we felt the best way would be to find these young people working under the foundation’s umbrella, something to do here, in the Cinematheque.”