ISRAELJune 2021L'CHAIM

The Lioness Who Lived to Tell

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Israeli filmmaker Ariela Alush did not let COVID ruin her plans. After years of coming to the states, screening her former films in different Jewish and Israeli communities around the land, just in the middle of all COVID restrictions and changing lockdowns everywhere, Miss Alush has returned to the United States, with a very specific mission: To film her new documentary, telling the story of women who are dealing with PTSD from terror attacks. “If everybody is working from home and zooming their meetings from everywhere to everywhere – I thought why shouldn’t I “zoom-in” better and get closer to my documentary characters?”

Keeping her safety like the restrictions ask, covered with her face mask and holding camera equipment with her gloves, Miss Alush was filming her characters from Jerusalem, New York, Boston and California, asking them about their biggest fears of being helpless or getting sick, but surprisingly discovering that COVID is not threatening to any of them, and in her deepest senses she already knew why.

Sixteen years ago Ariela Alush was involved in a terror attack herself, in Sinai peninsula just next to the Egyptian border with Israel. “Dealing with PTSD is something that I researched for years for my own healing journey, but since I’ve decided to hold a camera and document “The Others” stories and make documentary films, I have realized the power of the camera to heal, that what I did with every other film I made, so now I thought – why shouldn’t I do the same for my own “people” – Women who are suffering from PTSD from terror and other hate-events?”

During her documentary research, Miss Alush was disappointed to find that academic research about PTSD, either medical and psychological, has very little to say about civilians, and even less of women being hurt and injured. “Most of the research on PTSD showcases of military functions effect on soldiers. On the other hand, most PTSD that is being researched of women is related to domestic violence or sexual traumas. “But nothing talks about the combination of civilian women carrying terror remains in their body, mind, and soul. And that was an even extra incentive to tell this story through my documentary lens”.

Interviewing those characters during COVID, while most people were losing their minds in the face of the general uncertainty that swept the world, filmmaker Ariela Alush was one of those that the corona really did not deter.

“After you go through a meaningful thing like a near-death experience, nothing can really shake you anymore”. Yes, she is still dealing with ongoing pains and kind of an unseen disability, but making those documentaries and writing her scripts has kept her sharp and strong despite sad and sometimes frightening realities. “Like other Post Trauma survivors who have reached the level of overcoming their inner pain, I might still have my weakness like all of human beings, but when Corona came I just felt much more resilient than others”.

Miss Alush was in the middle of another documentary production being filmed in Poland when COVID restrictions began. The documentary told the story of the third generation of Holocaust survivors and how they are bridging hidden Jewish culture of their ancestors before the war, in nowadays Polish environment. “I was pitching this project in the Berlin Film Festival with my Polish producers when COVID hit and the Israeli delegation was being called back home because of the virus. So when this production stopped because the borders of Europe were closed, I realized that it was just the right time to work on the dealing-with-terror film, and document the stories that reality calls me to film.”

And how was she able to keep in contact with her audience while COVID? Through online screenings of course. Miss Alush held zoom meetings with viewers and opened her inspiring film “Copy Brad Pitt”, which won the “Best Jewish Film” in the Girona film festival (Spain) and other awards too, to an online screening. “I was amazed that almost 400 people chose to watch my film, and join the Q&A afterward on zoom. It just proved to me that when a good story is being documented and presented to the world, people do want to watch the quality stories, they want to be inspired and engaged to something bigger than just glam and happy ending plots. What people really want is to see themselves on the screen and even more – to find comfort and catharsis in their mirroring authentic heroes”.

From her experience filming “Copy Brad Pitt”, Miss Alush has realized that somehow, the camera heals its interviewees, and even creates a new reality for them. “I guess that’s why people are willing to open their heart to me and undergo a significant change in front of my documentary camera”. And that’s what she is doing in her new film too.

To learn about upcoming lectures in Southern California, see lionessfilms.com.

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