Israeli Documentary Director Brings ‘Children Of Peace’ Back To Twin Cities

Maayan Schwartz was only a few years removed from film school when his documentary Children of Peace was released, and at last year’s Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival, it swept the awards winning Best of Fest, Walter’s Pick, and the Audience Award – Best Documentary.

“To be a filmmaker, especially when you’re in the beginning, everything seems a bit not real,’ said Schwartz. “So things that you were always dreaming about, when they’re happening,  they’re like, ’Wow, seriously, is that really happening?’ Everything is happening so fast.”

Schwartz’s acclaimed documentary is returning to the big screen for a special encore screening of the film at 1 p.m. on Feb. 11, at Temple Israel. The film is presented by the Minnesota JCC, in partnership with Temple Israel, Mount Zion Temple, the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, Israel Programs of the St. Paul Jewish Federation, and Jewish Community Relations Council. Schwartz will be at the screening and hold a live talk-back called “Holding Multiple Narratives” after the screening.

The film is about the Israeli village of Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam, a social experiment of sorts. The name of the village is Arabic and Hebrew for Oasis of Peace, and is a vil­lage of Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel ded­icated to building justice, peace, and equality in the country and the region. It was founded in the 1970s on land belonging to the Latrun Monastery, and the film follows the many children who were brought up in this unique environment – including Schwartz himself.

“Unlike other films when people talk to me, they talk to me as a director, and they talk about the film by itself and the topic by itself,” he said. “ Here, everything is combined. The community, the film, me: everything is together. So mostly when people are talking to me, they’re talking about Neve Shalom itself. The topic is greater than the film itself.”

Schwartz moved back to Neve Shalom. He said he didn’t plan to, but decided to move back while making the film.

“It was weird in the beginning to come back after 16 years away,” he said. “But it was surprising how naturally it came back after a couple weeks of getting used to it.”

Like everywhere else in Israel, Schwartz said Neve Shalom has been affected by the October 7 attacks. 

“People here felt twice the pain because they got two different streams of information,” he said. “In the beginning, there was a phase of people trying to adjust what was happening. And there were meetings between the community. People talked, and it was very important because it was hard conversations. But in the end, there was a feeling that people that was important for them, for the people to keep on being [together] and not fall apart.”

Schwartz said that talking about the film in a post-October 7 context has gotten more difficult.

“I feel like everything I’ve been asked before October 7, suddenly feels not really accurate,” he said. “I had automatic answers for questions. And now, suddenly, nothing is automatic anymore.”