“Fabulous music often comes from an oppressed place. People make music to save themselves,” says Jewish-American documentary filmmaker Laura Bialis of her newest movie Rock in the Red Zone. The documentary explores the historically oppressed Israeli town of Sderot, whose location less than a mile from Gaza put its 24,000 citizens under relentless attack from over the border, especially in the early 2000s.
Thinking back to 2007, Laura says, “No one seemed to know about Sderot.” That included herself, until Israeli friends began sending her emails describing the trauma of life there. Further research shocked her as she discovered “a town inside Israel, behind The Green Line, getting hit by rockets. It was pretty horrifying — children traumatized, people afraid to go outside their homes.”
But Laura discovered something else that surprised her just as much: Sderot is a town famous for music. Curious to learn what life there was like for musicians, she went to film for a month. After returning to Los Angeles, however, she realized there was much more to say about the expansive story of Sderot. For example, in order to contextualize the handsome musician she’d met who’d retrofitted a bomb shelter into a recording studio where local teens processed their pain through songs, she’d need to also examine the revolutionary Sderot bands of the 1980s and ‘90s who changed Israeli music by integrating traditional Eastern instrumentation. And in order to do that, she’d also need to incorporate the history of the Mizrachim, who brought those traditions to Sderot in the first place.
So Laura packed her bags again, planning to film in Sderot for a few more months. Two years later she was still living there. In those years, she developed deep connections with Sderot’s welcoming community (remember the handsome musician?), even as she experienced firsthand the town’s frequent bombardment by Hamas’ qassams. She also created Rock in the Red Zone, a profound portrait of a place where the terror of rockets was matched by the beauty of music.
On November 18th at 7:00 p.m at Adath Israel, join the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia for a screening of Rock in the Red Zone, which Laura describes as “a film so real, you feel what it was like to live there.” The evening, which helps kick off the Jewish Federation’s Israel70 festivities, will also feature a discussion with Laura Bialis and a musical performance. Click here to RSVP and purchase tickets.
This screening of Rock in the Red Zone is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the AI Israel Affairs Committee, the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue and the Havdallah Film Café.