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Film Review: Frontiers of Dreams and Fears

Film Review: Frontiers of Dreams and Fears

By Sonia Nettnin

In the film, FRONTIERS OF DREAMS AND FEARS, director Mai Masri explores the lives of two, teenage girls who become close friends.

Their friendship develops through e-mails and pen pal letters; and they share their dreams of Palestine. A member of the Students for Justice in Palestine organization, Ben Meyer, hosted the showing at DePaul University’s Schmidt Academic Center.

After their grandparents fled in 1948, Mona, 13, lives with her family in Shatila Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon. Manar’s family sought refuge in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, just outside of Bethlehem. Mona and Manar have different challenges, but the dispossession of land is the root-cause for their life situations.

“I wish I were a bird,” Mona says. “But I don’t want anyone to shut me in.” She describes the camp in a simile: it is like a bird’s cage because there is no freedom. She wants a magic lantern so she can make her dreams come true. “I want to be a bird to fly to my country,” she explains.

When she was two-years-old, her father died of a heart attack. People tell her he was a wonderful teacher. Mona has five brothers and six sisters. She has a close friend, Samar. Israeli soldiers killed Samar’s father in a massacre. The girls are like sisters.

Manar, 14, is a member of the dance troupe IBDAA. They perform traditional Palestinian dance called debkeh. The word Ibdaa means “to create something out of nothing.”

Throughout her childhood, her father spent time in prison. “Our home is full of warmth, love and tenderness,” she says. She has two sisters and two brothers.

When Manar was one-years-old, Israeli soldiers grabbed her from her bed; and they threw her on the floor. As her grandfather narrates this story, she covers her mouth.

The film shows both girls with their respective friends, who participate in the pen pal letters also. The teens read some of the letters out loud and they confess who likes whom in the other group. Masri captures their excitement and their energy. Camp friends are close and they depend on their relationships for emotional support. The vision of Palestine is a yearning for all of the teens, which they express through song and dance.

In one scene, the girls and boys create keys out of construction paper. They hang them around their neck. As they walk down the street, they wear their dreams across their hearts.

When one boy is asked what his key means to him, he says: “Hope.”

Manar’s grandfather takes her to their home village, which is overgrown with trees and bushes. His house, made of stone, still stands behind the foliage. As they walk through the dome-shaped entrance, Manar and her grandfather are emotional. “I used to hide my coins in a handkerchief here in this corner,” he says. Later on, Manar explains that she felt the land telling her not to leave it.

What touched me about their personal experience is the depth of feeling the people have about their expulsion. They long for positive resolution. As I watched them pour out their lives they grabbed me. What would life be like for Palestinians and Israelis if everyone was equal? The opportunities for growth and prosperity for all of the people are endless.

Moreover, I like Manar’s grandfather because he is an integral part of his grandchildren’s lives. He is the guardian of the family, but he is a spiritual and emotional hearthstone as well. Male figures in a family are crucial. When Masri interviews the girls, she shows the effects of fathers’ absences (via imprisonment, death and murder).

The climax of the film is at the Lebanese/Israeli border where the girls and many families meet for the first time. People kiss and hug between the barbed wire. They call out their family and village names. During the reunion, hands drip with the blood. Israeli soldiers push people away from the border fence.

One woman holds a large, framed photo of her son. She yells that she has not seen him in 27 years, and she wants to know what happened to him. Another woman calls out to Palestine: “How can I touch you?” A boy gathers soil in a plastic bottle.

Masri moves viewers into peoples’ personal experiences through their emotions and their creative expression. The presentation of the familial and friend relations between the teens is stunning, along with the ground coverage of the violence. More information about the film is at

In August, Meyer will spend time with the Palestine Agricultural Relief Committee, where he will survey villages in West Bank. He will look at the impact the wall has on Palestinian youth. He can be reached at


Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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