From Israel to New York, Blues by the Beach Gets Top Reviews

By Joshua Faudem
Special to the Israel News Agency

Tel Aviv----December 15......What is it like living in a state of perpetual war and terror?
Israel is a paradise of sun and beach, of splendour and history. Is it crazy to live in a country where any day may bring death. Where 18-year-old boys and girls are required to enlist in the army. Where the mobile phone system in Israel collapses weekly under the pressure of worried Israelis checking-up on their loved ones.

Israel is a place where daily life is both glory and affliction. Mike's Place is a popular live music bar on the Tel Aviv beachfront. It could be any rock and blues bar in any city, anywhere in the world. Three filmmakers chose Mike's Place to show the bloodshed and fear on news broadcasts is not the whole story concerning Israel. People there still laugh, dance and listen to music despite the seemingly endless warfare and terrorism.

The bartenders and waitresses and their regulars are the film's subjects and serve as guides to an Israeli Experience. They are young, come from all over the world, and live in this land because they choose to. The ever-present danger does not stop them, if anything, it intensifies their desire to live life to the full.

Tragedy put in its appearance at Mike's Place in, Tel Aviv, Israel after midnight on Wednesday, April 30th, 2003.
Death and injury came in the twinkling of an eye, intruding on the idyll the filmmakers had begun to capture: a suicide bomber exploded himself on Jam Nite. Yanai Weiss and Ran Baron, two musicians, and Dominique Hass, a waitress who had emigrated from France, were killed. Among the dozens injured in the powerful blast are: Avi Tabib, the security guard, who heroically saved everyone inside the bar by pushing the bomber out the doorway; and one of the three filmmakers - Jack Baxter, an American documentary producer and investigative journalist, who came to Tel Aviv and found a story to tell about present day Israel at Mike's Place.

As word of the "piguah" (terrorist bombing) is broadcast everywhere in real time, footage taken from this film hit the television airways and front pages of newspapers worldwide. The footage aired across Europe, America, Israel, and the Arab world. While Jack lay in hospital recovering from serious wounds, the two other filmmakers, Pavla Fleischer, a writer/director from the Czech Republic, and her boyfriend, co-director Joshua Faudem, an American-born Israeli, were suddenly brought from behind the camera and into the spotlight. Pavla and Joshua continued to film, showing it all from the eye of the hurricane.

They attended the daily Mike's Place "family" gatherings till the early mornings, visited the injured in hospital, recorded the vibrant original live blues of Mike's Place, and followed preparations for the memorial service that marked the reopening of the bar. Blues By The Beach not only has footage of a suicide bombing; the film illustrates the effects of terror, the aftermath and moving on. Pavla and Joshua see a real-life dramatic script writing itself before their camera and understand that the emotional upheaval in their personal relationship is an integral part of the Israeli Experience and the story of the Mike's Place bombing.

Blues By The Beach, which won first prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival for a docmentary in conflict and resolution, is going to be screened at Magno Studios in New York City this evening.

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