In the superb, Oscar-nominated documentary Promises, filmmakers B.Z. Goldberg (American-Israeli), Justine Shapiro (South African-born American), and Carlos Bolado (Mexican) discover a key to peace among men of goodwill in the free exchange of burps among boys. The scene is Jerusalem, where Shlomo, a prematurely adult Orthodox Jewish boy opining about Jews and Arabs, is interrupted by a Palestinian boy who wanders into the camera frame and shows off a fine belch. Shlomo responds with an effective blap of his own. The boys giggle and belch some more. The moment is lucky, magical, and fleeting.
Because we adults know what we know, the freely expressed opinions of the seven Israeli and Arab children profiled in this thoughtful, agendaless portrait take on added weight: The kids were filmed between 1997 and 2000, and since then hostilities in the Middle East have only intensified. (A brief filmed postscript shows how a potential friendship between a couple of Israeli twins and a Palestinian boy in a refugee camp, forged by a shared love of sports and caught on camera, has rusted from disuse.) But for one moment, the patience of documentarians nurtured understanding among strangers accustomed to being enemies — for which a prize is surely in order.