Arna Mer Khamis, a Jewish woman artist, was a force of nature. Arna's Children explores the children’s theater workshop she founded in the West Bank town of Jenin, a place better known for conflict than for dramatic self-expression. During the first Intifada, Arna established an alternative educational program in Jenin Refugee Camp to compensate for the virtual collapse there of the formal education system. Under her watchful and encouraging eyes, Palestinian kids discovered their inner playwrights and actors, despite (and sometimes because of) the tension in Jenin. With tutoring from Arna and her son Juliano (the director of the film), these young thespians wrote their own plays, made their own costumes and provided entertainment and hope for their community.
Shot over a 13-year period, this film--much like Michael Apted’s 7 Up documentaries--captures with heartbreaking honesty the lives of Arna’s children over time (and as recently as 2002), while drawing the viewer into their emotional, physical and political development. As resistance to the harsh life in the refugee camps grows, the hope and tolerance learned by Arna's children become harder to maintain.
Arna herself was a feisty, loving activist who came from a prominent Zionist family, joined the Palmakh (an underground group that fought for Israel's independence), became active in the Israeli left, and married a Palestinian Arab, Saliba Khamis. Their son Juliano Mer Khamis (an Israeli actor and theater director) shares his split perspective of Jew and Palestinian with integrity and compassion in this tribute to his mother’s spirit and to the children she loved.
Is a director and editor in Amsterdam. His credits as director include: Winter ’89 (1997), Mykosch (1995) and Egg (1987) and as editor: Tussenland (2002), The Great Postal Road (1996) and Metal and Melancholy (1993)., Is a renowned Israeli actor and theatre director living in Haifa. His film credits include: Kedma (2002), Wedding Galilee (1987), The Little Drummer Girl (1984).