For the past few days we had Marcus Vetter, an award-winning documentary film director, staying with us and visiting betterplace. It’s been a great time, with little sleep and much talk, many meetings resulting in a number of creative ideas.
What is a film director doing on betterplace?
Well, Marcus latest film, Heart of Jenin, took him to the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Here he documented the true story of Ismael Khatib, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp. In 2005 Ismaels 12 years old son Achmed was shot dead by Israeli soldiers. Still grieving, his father agreed to donate Ahmed’s heart, liver, lungs and kidneys to save the lives of Israeli children.
The film documents not only the dramatic days after Achmed’s death, but follows Ismaels journey two years later to three of the Jewish families whose children owe their lives to the organ donations.
The New York Times writes:
Offering a startling vision of hope while laying bare the deep divisions between Israelis and Palestinians, “The Heart of Jenin,” a new German-Israeli documentary film, recounts the story of Ahmed, his father, and three of the five people who received the donated organs.
“It’s not about politics, about Jews or Arabs, it’s about human beings,” said Ismail Khatib, Ahmed’s father, in an interview after the film’s premiere in Jerusalem.
“I see my son in these children.”
The encounter with the protagonists of the story, as well as the political and humanitarian catastrophy defining the Palestinian Territories, moved Marcus to go beyond his usual task of documentation. Together with Ismael, who had started a child center in the Jenin refugee camp in order to keep children off the dangerous streets, he decided upon a new social project: the renovation of the old cinema in the city center.
You can read more about the project here.
Marcus came in touch with betterplace when presenting his project (alongside our CEO Till) at the Hasso Plattner Institute, devoted to Social Entrepreneurship, last month (thanks Dagmar Quentin for making the match and for Jörg Rheinboldt to pass it on to me!).
Since, Marcus and I have met at the film festival in Locarno, where Heart of Jenin was enthusiastically greeted, and where I had the chance to meet Ismael himself. Now in Berlin we sat together with Moritz (responsible for marketing at betterplace), Hannelore (projects), Aishah (press) and Hans-Jürgen (project incubator) to devise effective fundraising strategies for Cinema Jenin. Today we also spent a constructive hour in the offices of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, leaving with the prospect of systematically gathering support from important German cultural institutions abroad.
Supporting a project like Cinema Jenin is no only intellectually and emotionally exciting, it also teaches a lot about project work. We are in direct contact with a project manager or social entrepreneur, who gives us valuable feedback about the functioning of betterplace as a fundraising and networking platform. Thus by engaging deeply with one project, we are hopefully able to develop solutions which will benefit all users of the plattform.