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Power Documentary Screened at the J-MC School


Hilla Medalia.

For the past several years, Professor Dan Berkowitz has taught a course about Media & Terrorism that helps students analyze mediated messages in various media and other parts of popular culture. His research leading up to teaching this course included how Palestinian suicide bombers have been portrayed in American media.

Through his studies he met Hilla Medalia, director of the student film "Daughters of Abraham," which was recognized with a 2005 Regional Emmy Award. Medalia is originally from a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel. She began her academic career in the United States, where she earned bachelor’s and master's degrees from Southern Illinois University. Medalia continued to work on “Daughters of Abraham as it evolved into the film “To Die in Jerusalem,” which was broadcast on HBO this November 1.

In the fall of 2007; Berkowitz and Medalia organized the screening of “To Die in Jerusalem,” Medalia’s first feature documentary. The event was co-sponsored by the School of Journalism & Mass Communication, the Institute for Cinema & Culture, the Middle East & Muslim World Studies group, and The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights.

“To Die in Jerusalem”  is a powerful film that follows the emotional struggle between the mothers of 17-year-old Rachel Levy, an Israeli, who was killed five years ago in Jerusalem by a Palestinian suicide bomber, Ayat al-Akhras, also 17. The two young women looked unbelievably alike. The mother’s of the two girls each struggle to cope with their daughter’s death through the political battle between Palestinians and Israelites.

Following the screening, three panelists were invited to comment on the film. Jennifer Howell, a former student of Berkowitz, working toward a PhD in French at the UI; Ariana Hamidi, a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Cinema & Comparative Literature at the UI; andVicki Hesli, a professor of political science at The UI. The panelists discussed the political and symbolic role of the film as well as the story line and cinematography as they fielded questions from the audience.

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