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Review: ‘In the Land of Pomegranates’ probes the hope and despair of young Israelis and Palestinians

(L-R) - Ayana Lekach and Rotem Dar , as seen in “In the Land of Pomegranates”, a First Run Features
Ayana Lekach, left, and Rotem Dar in the documentary “In the Land of Pomegranates.”
(First Run Features)

As an exploration of the intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories, “In the Land of Pomegranates” joins a long cinematic lineage. Like most of its forebears, it offers a few rays of hope along with profoundly dispiriting observations. What sets Hava Kohav Beller’s documentary apart is the intense colloquy at its disheartening heart: a series of discussions among young Palestinians and Israelis during a retreat in Germany.

There’s nothing feel-good about the group conversations, their bristling tension captured in intimate footage during the 2007 edition of a program called Vacation from War. Sitting in the same room, twentysomethings raised in political turmoil parse the difference between “terrorist” and “retaliatory” and express shockingly divergent points of view on the Holocaust. The searching complexity of the participants’ words is undeniable, but whether they truly see each other in a new, humanizing light is uncertain. And Beller never suggests otherwise.

The New York-based director — born in Germany, raised in Israel — spent a decade gathering material for the film, and as it leaps back and forth in time, it can feel disorganized and overlong. She intercuts the roundtables with a quartet of portraits, some more revealing than others. At its most hopeful, the film traces a story of medical diplomacy, involving a young Gaza boy’s life-saving surgery by an Israeli doctor. At its most searing, it illuminates the seeds of hatred and the depths of suffering and mistrust.

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‘In the Land of Pomegranates’

In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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