The immediate threat of violence permeates throughout the documentary No Child is Born A Terrorist, as explore.org filmmaker Charlie Annenberg confronts an ever-present feeling of potential danger. Yet one calming influence exists in the form of a man who seems to stand above it all, everyone's friend and guide into an unknown world. That man, the great Juliano Mer-Khamis, was killed on Monday, April 4th, shot to death outside the very theater he hoped would provide alternative outlets besides aggression.
|Juliano Mer-Khamis, right, with Charlie Annenberg and Zakariya Zubeidi|
Mer-Khamis was a living bridge between Palestine and Israel. Half Palestinian, half Israeli, he was an actor who devoted his life to increasing cross-cultural understanding and artistic expression in one of the most oppressive areas of West Bank, a refugee camp in the city of Jenin. It was there where he opened The Freedom Theater in 2006 along with Zakariya Zubeidi, former military head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Mer-Khamis was the son of Arna Mer, a prominent Jewish Israeli political activist, and Saliba Khamis, a Palestinian Christian. Arna Mer opened the original theater in 1987 as The Stone Theater, and Juliano was devoted to carrying on his mother's legacy. Mer-Khamis documented his mother's work in the 2004 film "Arna's Children," which won first prize a the Canadian International Documentary Festival. His best-known roles were in the 1985 film "Rage and Glory" and 2000's "Kippur."
Charlie Annenberg and the explore Team traced the steps that Mer-Khamis walked everyday, getting a firsthand view of this unique man's influence and dedication. The camp is home to more than 16,000 Palestinian refugees, half of whom are under 18. Mer-Khamis' work gained extra significance in this atmosphere, instilling an understanding of tradition and culture in Palestinian youth. In the film, Charlie conveys that, "The theater gave the kids in the camp a stage to express their joy, their frustration, anger and hope."
Palestinian security forces have made an arrest in the killing, although the suspect has yet to confess. With Mer-Khamis' death, No Child is Born a Terrorist becomes a living tribute to a person that described himself as "100 percent Palestinian, 100 percent Jewish" and sought to create a foundation for peace beginning with the youth. In the film, Mer-Khamis states his belief in Palestinian youth, saying, "As human beings, if you give them meaning, if you give them something to live for, they are not going to become terrorists, they will not be violent." His work will live on through The Freedom Theater.
Watch the explore film, No Child is Born a Terrorist, online now: