A Slim Peace is a hybrid film which has its roots in observational documentary.
From Park Avenue to Trailer Park, whether you are a high society grande dame or a Jersey Shore girl, folds of fat are folds of fat. The desire to be thin is one of the great unifiers. It's an area of great intimacy and vulnerability, and even in the context of the overarching violence and conflict of the Middle East, the same holds true.
The documentary follows a group of women who come from disparate social, political, economic and religious backgrounds. All women live in the same locality but have never come into contact with one another. These women are united over a six-week course of weight loss classes to fight for the common goal of losing weight. The meetings take place in the Cinematheque, right on the border between the two communities in East Jerusalem. A Slim Peace sees whether something as universal as dieting can trump political/socio/economic differences and bring these women to understand each other on a different level when they are meeting for a common goal.
The tone of the film is quirky and humorous and provides a keyhole into a different life. The world's cameras are pointed at the conflict taking place in the Middle East, but A Slim Peace provides an opportunity to see a different side of the people who live side by side with that conflict.
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Director: Yael Luttwak
What inspired the film, A Slim Peace?
I grew up to believe in a Jewish state. At 21, after graduating from the University of Rochester I joined the Israeli Defense Forces and became a tank gunnery instructor. I was committed. My soldiers Hezbollah guerillas. I never killed anyone, but I was a good instructor. Sometimes I wonder how responsible I am for the deaths of others. Terrorists or not, self-defence or not, it is horrible.
I finished the military and have worked in film and television ever since. In 2000, still living in Israel I produced a teen television talk show with Israelis and Palestinians. For the first time, I became friends with Palestinians. That is when the shift happened. I was reluctant to share my military service past with my Palestinian colleagues.
How did you make the connection between weight loss and peace?
That same year, I lost ten kilos and we lost the Camp David peace accords. I connected the two. Losing weight and making peace. Maybe this was the solution. Maybe if we all feel better and healthier about ourselvesä I made a film to find out and created my own weight loss group ≠ A Slim Peace.
The issues I was interested in exploring were around eating, weight, women's bodies in both Jewish and Muslim cultures. Obviously, at the film's centre is the subject of empathy. Can two groups of women who live so close to each other, Palestinian and Israeli, who would ordinarily never speak, lower their barriers? The device through which they are encouraged to do this is the intimate and vulnerable arena of a weight-loss group.
How did you persuade the women on both sides to come to the group?
The group followed best-practices principles and followed a course planned out by the facilitators, the heads of nutrition from the Haddassah Hospital ≠ one Palestinian and one Israeli. It was a really great program we were offering!
It was also really important for the group that the location be neutral, so all women would feel on an equal footing. With this in mind, I chose the Cinematheque building in East Jerusalem. From the fourteen women, I made an attempt to choose a balanced group. I particularly wanted to focus on voices who would normally never speak to each other. From the fourteen women, I then focused in on four viewpoints more closely during the film ≠ there is one Bedouin; the voice of an older generation, a Jewish woman who was born and raised in Jerusalem; a couple of American Jews from Bat Ayin and Gush Etzion provide the voice of a younger generation and finally a Muslim Arab from Ramallah completes the four.
What do you make of the outcome of the group and the film?
The extraordinary and entertaining results are not simply interesting to Jewish or Muslim audiences, but the themes of antipathy and empathy make this film something of interest to any audience familiar with conflict.
DIRECTOR/CO-PRODUCER – Yael Luttwak
Yael graduated top of her year from London Film School with two award-winning short films distributed by Brit Shorts. Luttwak initiated, organised, and facilitated a twelve part television series with Israelis and Palestinians MEETING POINT broadcast on Israeli Channel 2 and the Palestinian Broadcasting Authority, and recently assisted Mike Leigh on his sell-out play at the National Theatre, Two Thousand Years. This is her first full-length documentary feature.
PRODUCER – Charles Lambert
Lambert wrote and produced the independent feature film WOLVES OF KROMER. It has been theatrically distributed in 8 countries with glowing reviews. It has also become a top-selling DVD occupying the number one position in the US Gay DVD sales chart. Since WOLVES OF KROMER, Charles has become a Doctor in Screenwriting (PhD at East Anglia University) and is writing and developing new projects through DISCODOG Productions.
EDITORS - John Mister
John Mister has extensive credits, including the recent BULLETBOY, and long association with documentary including work with Nick Broomfield.
Carol studied at the National Film and Television School in the UK and since then she has worked as a freelance editor on many award-winning documentaries and drama.