Palestine and Israel. Conflicting narratives and a world of preconceptions. Can we see this world differently?
The House of Tomorrow takes a new approach to an old conflict inspired by the forward vision of extraordinary women who are changing their own worlds a step at a time – not by overlooking the conflict but by seeing what people can do despite it.
Shot on location, the film takes us from the high rise tech buildings of Tel Aviv to the holy sites and bustling markets of Jerusalem, from the cobbled lanes of Bethlehem to the expanding streets of Ramallah, capturing the energy and tension of a world defined by its clashing viewpoints.
A contemporary and lively documentary, The House of Tomorrow chooses to focus on the future and to encourage the idea that people can have a hand in their own destinies, however unlikely and whatever the odds. Palestinian Hanan Kattan and Israeli Liat Aaronson used the renowned TED conference format to bring together outstanding female speakers from both Israel and Palestine to share their inspirations and unique ideas. Using the TEDxHolyland conference as a starting point, The House of Tomorrow is set in the current reality – but challenges viewers to put that reality aside and explore a future of hope and potential for the Middle East in way we have rarely seen before.
Palestinian Hanan Kattan and Israeli Liat Aaronson are ostensibly from two very different sides of the spectrum. But during one short week at the TEDIndia conference two women, whose backgrounds define them as enemies, found their common values and humanity. TEDxHolyLand is not an attempt to forget the past or brush over it. But it is an acknowledgment that the future can only improve with vision and the courage to think differently. To challenge each other, understand each other, and empower each other. To acknowledge those who are working to create the kind of world we all want our children to live in. Years of history cannot be overturned in a day. But a viewpoint can be changed in a day. And that is why they decided to present TedxHolyLand. Because only by thinking outside the box can we live together inside the same region.
Director’s statement – Shamim Sarif
I am a great admirer and supporter of the work Hanan Kattan and Liat Aaronson did in bringing together the TEDxHolyLand conference. Bringing together Israeli and Palestinian women to talk – to really communicate and share each others’ experiences and visions – was (to quote speaker Safa Aburabia) “a great achievement.”
But I have to confess, I was not certain whether or how this would translate into a documentary film at first. Two things helped to focus me – the first was meeting and interviewing a group of truly exceptional women from all sides of the political spectrum. Political differences paled beside the philosophy and outlook they all shared – which was that anyone could make a difference, however overwhelming the circumstances against them. The second attraction was purely selfish, from the point of view of a director. And that was the sheer visual feast presented by every aspect of Palestine and Israel.
I was like a child in a sweet shop. Everywhere I looked there were shots that told a story. From the eerily vibrant murals on the wall that divides the West Bank and Israel, to the cobbled alleys and market stalls of East Jerusalem, to the majestic sun soaked vistas of Masada. As I explored all of this, I realised that there might be a way to elegantly combine the intense ideas and concepts that the TEDx HolyLand conference had opened up with the visual world around me.
Finding the structure involved creating five sections that dealt with such themes as Occupation and Identity from the perspective of women who were experiencing the issues and challenging the paradigms associated with them. The aim was to have a very defined structure but one with parts that moved seamlessly and fluidly together. The idea of interspersing historical flashbacks was to give a context in which viewers could truly appreciate the culture of conflict which these women are transcending, and to make the history clear and balanced.
The House of Tomorrow does not claim to be a definitive historical documentation, nor a sweeping overview of the current state of the Middle East conflict. It was important to me to look at it in the context of Hanan’s personal journey back to Palestine, but we also tried to ensure that our look back at the history of both Palestine and Israel was as balanced and non judgmental as we could make it. Because the aim was really to focus on the future, to draw a metaphorical line under the past, without discarding its importance, and to look forward.
Co-director’s statement – Hanan Kattan
“The House of Tomorrow‟ represents the confluence of my heritage and my philosophy. As a Palestinian born in Jordan, I grew up intensely aware of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. My mother’s family was from Jerusalem and my father’s family is from Bethlehem. It was only as I grew up that I began to question the predominant view around me, which was anti-Israeli and without much vision of peace.
Questioning every premise, no matter how long held, is one of the keys to our growth as people, as communities, as societies. The vision that I shared with my fellow curator, Liat Aaronson, was for the TEDxHolyLand conference to help question, to challenge the idea that Israelis and Palestinians must always be opposed, to challenge the presumption that without politicians to smooth the way, no peace is possible.
Like our conference, The House of Tomorrow is focused very much on women and their achievements and viewpoints. Women’s voices are often under-represented in the Middle East, but they are also often the mainstay of their family and community structures. They can exercise a unique influence on their children, who will be the next generation to seek peace from conflict. So their vision, their work in breaking moulds, establishing businesses, acting as role models is extremely important.
The conference uncovered a great enthusiasm for dialogue and for understanding, and it was as we started editing that the mini revolutions of the Arab Spring began taking place. The problems between Palestine and Israel are not those of the other Middle East dictatorships, but the potential for ordinary people to start influencing their leaders and to feel a stronger control over their lives seemed to me to be very relevant and incredibly uplifting.