The documentary The Promised Band is about a group of Israeli and Palestinian women seeking to fight through the cultural, legal, political, military and security barriers between them (by forming a girl band).   It effectively brings the audience into the Israel-Palestine border situation and the isolating effects on both Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel’s solution to the security situation has created a world in which Israelis and Palestinians do not interact and get to know each other personally.  The American filmmaker Jen Heck has friends on both sides, and sought to connect them personally – which is not easy.  In fact, it is illegal and dangerous for Israelis to visit parts of the West Bank that are designated as Area A (under complete Palestinian control).  And it’s downright impossible for Palestinian residents of Area A to enter Israel.  The women decide to form a band, with the hope that a performance in Israel can legally justify a visit by the Palestinian women.

Is this extremely naive?  Indeed, Heck herself and one of her Israeli friends seem pretty clueless about the risks…at first.  But other Israeli women had been in Palestine while serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, and the Palestinian women live with the harsh realities every day.

The most compelling subject of the documentary is the main Palestinian character, the charismatic Lina.  Lina is a rock star, and a little imbalance is created when she is matched with the other subjects of the documentary.  Lina is clearly repressed by both Israeli occupation and her own conservative culture, but she doesn’t grouse about the latter to her Israeli friends.

The Promised Band is a successful exploration of the effects of mutual isolation, as well as a  wistful personal study of the women (and a man) who come and go from the band.  Along the way, it provides a very explicit snapshot of the barriers to travel and social integration.  The Promised Band is one of the 129 woman-directed films at this year’s Cinequest.

The Promised Band’s World premiere will be on March 4 at Cinequest, with additional screenings on March 6 and 12.