Holy Land Kickstarter Press Release


The Oil is Made by Israeli Settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank
Director, Inspired by Corleone Family, Gives New Meaning to “In the Can”
Kickstarter page: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/petercohn/holy-land-a-documentary-film-about-the-west-bank

New York , Feb. 26 — Filmmakers often go to extremes to find funding.   There was the French auteur who threatened to hack off  a finger with a chainsaw.  A young American indie who sold his blood on skid row.   And now a New York documentary maker has devised a new, unconventional financing method:  he has become an olive oil importer.

Director/producer Peter Cohn spent one year shooting his film, “Holy Land,”  in the West Bank, following three Israelis and three Palestinians from across the political spectrum.   With filming completed, Cohn ran out of money, and like many filmmakers, he has turned to crowd funding platform Kickstarter to raise the rest of his budget.

Cohn hopes the secret to a successful campaign will be a politically symbolic olive oil, an oil that in many ways reflects the open-minded spirit of the film.  “Heaven’s Field” olive oil comes from a small West  Bank farm tended by both Israeli settlers and Palestinians, located in a part of the West Bank where there has been a cycle of violent attacks involving the two communities.

“Holy Land” also brings together the separate world of Israelis and Palestinians.  The film’s six subjects come from across the political and religious spectrum:  a leader of Hamas, an Orthodox Israeli settler, a young Palestinian media activist, a leader of Peace Now, a progressive Palestinian mayor and an unconventional Rabbi.  “I wanted to go deep into what’s happening in the West Bank today,” Cohn says.  “And to do that, I believe that you have to show all sides of the story.”

Cohn is offering the 100% organic, cold pressed olive as one of his Kickstarter backer rewards.   The campaign launches Feb. 26., and Cohn is seeking a minimum of $20,000 to pay for an editor and other postproduction costs.

Cohn wants to complete “Holy Land”  by the end of the year, in part to capture new interest in films about the Arab-Israeli conflict.   Two of the five films nominated for best feature documentary in this year’s Academy Awards relate to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (“Five Broken Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers.” )  “These are two brilliant, powerful films,” Cohn says.  “I hope that my film can fill in some of the major blanks by depicting what is going on across the West Bank, right now, on both sides.”

The Olive Oil: “The Heart of the Conflict is the Heart of the Solution”

The “Heaven’s Field” farm is in a spring-fed valley in the Gush Etzion area, close to Bethlehem and not far from Jerusalem.  The Heaven’s Field group hopes to become self-supporting by selling organic vegetables in local markets, and to become a force for peace by hosting dialog groups and simply by power of example (their motto is: “Heart of the Conflict.   Heart of the Solution.” )  They pursue their peace-seeking effort even in the face of scorn from some members of their own communities.

The organizers were inspired by Rabbi Menachem Froman, from the nearby settlement of Tekoa, who is also the inspiration for the farm’s sponsoring network Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace).    Froman, a founder of the post-1967 settler movement, was at one time the chief rabbi of Tekoa, and was also the rabbi of the Knesset.   He went on the become well known for his public peace initiatives with Yasser Arafat and leaders of Hamas.   Froman is one of the main subjects of “Holy Land.”

Critics of the Israeli occupation have called for a boycott of all products produced in the settlements, which has Cohn fretting that he may run into charges that his Kickstarter reward is politically incorrect.  “You never know, but I can’t imagine that anyone could object to a product made by brave people who are so truly committed to the idea of peace, settlers or not,” Cohn says.

More About the production

Cohn worked with a team of Palestinian, Israeli and American producers and directors of photography.  “My goal was to remain non-partisan, with an emphasis on finding strong, active subjects who were engaged at some level in the great struggles of the West Bank,” Cohn says.  “I know it’s impossible to find a perfectly ‘representative’ selection of characters or to be ‘objective,’ but we tried our best.”

About the Filmmaker

Cohn has faced similar financial challenges before.   “Holy Land” is his fourth independent film.  If he’s able to successfully complete post production by the end of 2013, Cohn hopes that the film will have a broadcast on a cable network or PBS, to be followed by an outreach campaign to community groups, universities and schools.  He has successfully followed a similar strategy with his previous films, including the highly regarded dramatic feature “Drunks.”   His two previous social issue documentaries are  “Golden Venture,” one about Chinese immigrants to the US, and “Power and Control: Domestic Violence in America,” about gender violence.

To find out more about “Holy Land” on the web: www.holylandfilm.com