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Sunday, February 17, 2008

AWESOME ENDEAVORS": Interview with Lilly Rivlin - Writer, Producer & Filmmaker of "Can You Hear Me?"


Hip Slope Mama has an exclusive interview with Lilly Rivlin, a Journalist, Writer, Producer and Filmmaker. Her film "Can You Hear Me?" - Israeli and Palestinian Women Fight for Peace (2006), is a labor of love that documents the women working on both sides of the conflict, trying to win peace not through violence, but through dialogue. Her documentary was recently shown at The Brooklyn Museum of Art, where it was very well-received. HSM is happy to report that Lilly will be screening her film in Brooklyn again at the Brooklyn Ethical Society on March 9th, 2008 at 2pm ($7 suggested donation). Brooklyn Ethical is located in Park Slope, Brooklyn on 53 Prospect Park West, across from Prospect Park at Second Street. Below is a written, abridged version of the Hip Slope Mama "Awesome Endeavors" interview. To listen to the extended podcast interview please click "Play" below.

HSM: Historically & universally, women have often played an important role in resolving conflict & preventing violence. While making this film, what new insights did you gain about the psyche of women & what makes them so particularly suitable to grass root activism and peace building?

LILLY RIVLIN: It’s something I knew even before. It was confirmed while making this film. Women will stick to their passion. What I learned here is that these women who I met so many years ago still keep on doing it (the peace movement).

There is a very strong argument between two women in my film. Lots of women; lots of people were not happy that I showed that. And I showed that because women are not immune to political differences. Women have different ways of looking at the conflict. What is important and what I learned is that the two women who have the fight do not leave the peacemaking movement. They remain in the camp and continue doing their work. They both came to the premier of the film. They didn't sit next to each other, but there was one person in between. I think this is very indicative of women. I think they can keep on going.

What I would like to see is more women involved in the decision making process. More women have to take action on the grass root level. More young people have to be educated that it is possible to solve conflicts non-violently; it is possible to share resources. I think women can take more action on that level.

HSM: Your films all seem to share the common themes of family, feminism and the triumph of the human spirit. In fact, I read in your biography that you have endeavored to live by the feminist motto “the personal is political”. Do you believe that most social change is created by people who are not politicians?

LILLY RIVLIN: I do, but I think it is a combination of both. I don’t think you can do one without the other. And therefore I’ve really concentrated on working as much as I can on a grass root level, as well as a political level. I think that the political sphere has to include a consciousness, at least by the grass roots people, that change can take place both on the grass root level, while at the same time working in the political sphere.

HSM: “Can You Hear Me?” really empowers everyday women to be change agents by taking an active role in their society. The feminist leader, Gloria Steinem had great things to say about your film and wondered why “leaders have not listened to these women’s voices that could be their only hope?” Do you think that despite UN Resolution 1325 women are still being disenfranchised in the political arena? If so, what’s your opinion on how that should change?

LILLY RIVLIN: I think we’re still disenfranchised. We have to put everything into perspective. 1) most women in the world have not achieved the kind of freedoms that we have here. 2) the kind of freedoms that we have here are still limited. It’s forty years since the second wave of the feminist revolution and here we are in a presidential election where the same demands are not being made on a presidential women candidate as a male candidate. But, I don’t want to go there because we are now working at it. We’re involved in that.

We don’t know what effect there will be of women fully being involved in decision making. Until we have a determining number of women involved in politics, I’m not sure that you can judge whether women will make a difference.

HSM: As a parting thought, what do you see as the greater message you want the audience to walk away with from your documentary.

LILLY RIVLIN: I want them to understand that maybe if women were more involved in political decision making there would be other ways of approaching conflict. I want then to understand that there are Jewish, Christian and Muslim women who are working away at this and continuing to try to find ways to deal with the conflict and that the “personal is political”.