Travel with me back in recent time: Saturday night and Toronto’s finest Chef in exile calls me, “Yo man, Stars at Paradiso tonight, I put you on the guest list as bicyclemark +1.” I thanked my good buddy, as he always goes above and beyond for me, especially when his longtime friends the Stars are in town. Normally I would call on a lovely Amsterdam feminina to be my +1 for such a great night, unfortunately my potential to land a date is pretty shitty these days, so instead I call my local mindcaster, who’s always up for adventure.
We head over to the former church-turned-nightclub, and as I park my bike I can already hear “One More Night” pouring out one of the stained-glass windows. But as we approach the bouncer-lady and tell her we’re bicyclemark+1, she informs us there’s no such name on the grand list, not even variations of my legal name. I text the man and inform him something went wrong, we wave to him from beyond the glass and he looks apologetic and concerned for us. But in fact, there was a reason for this rejection — we were meant to experience something far great on this december night.
Mindcaster knows as well as I do that the IDFA documentary film festival is still going on, and we could still catch whatever isn’t sold out. We head over to the box office and choose from among the few films showing. I think it was our second or third choice, we ask for tickets to “Inner Tour”, and although it sounds like a generic title, the description tells of a documentary from 2000 where a group of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are taken on a bus to tour Israel for 3 days. – We bought some heinekens and wandered over to the fairly busy theater.
What follows was one of the most gut wrenching, uplifting, thought provocating, and emotional film watching I think either of us had experienced in some time. Documentaries are typically depressing and dark, probably reflecting the sad state of the world. But this was not one of those, this had bright moments, moments shared between an old Palestinian man remembering the home he grew up in, now in ruins, and uncovering the grave of his father, in the middle of what seems like nowhere. And it wasn’t a film about blaming one side or the other, it was about the unfathomable situation people go through in that region, visiting a place you consider your homeland, but everything is different, and its no longer your homeland, but you wish it would once again be so but you wonder if it ever was.
There were too many scenes to adequately tell you of the beauty and power. But for me, my heart raced as a Palestinian man from Ramallah got into a cab in Tel Aviv and said to the driver “Take me to where they killed your prime minister.” And then the driver asks what the man meant to him, and he tells an amazing story of being imprisoned during the intifada and how the prime minister (Rabin) visited the prison, and came to talk with him, to find a way to make peace. For his part, I think Mindcaster was floored when a young Palestinian who’s family was scattered throughout the world, meets his mother at the Lebanese border, where they can only stare at each other through a terrible fence, and throw care packages over to each other, filled with photos and a video taped message he had recorded during the journey.
The film made me think of how far I live from my family. And how different this world is from the one I’m surrounded with. And how all these things take place while I sit here surfin the net and writing emails about who-knows-what. It’s a cruel irony… those who live in comfort and those who live in pain. Those who go to concerts versus those who simply try to cross checkpoints to find work.
What started out as an unexpected night for music and dancing, turned out to be a true Inner Tour, in more ways the one.