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TV REVIEWS : View From Women's 'P.O.V.': A Micro and Macro World

August 25, 1993|ROBERT KOEHLER

The hot issues filling the airwaves are becoming either "macro" or "micro." And what often tends to distinguish the two is gender: Men take on the big, overarching ones; women embrace the intimate, private ones. The two films on the latest edition of "P.O.V.," Michal Aviad's "The Women Next Door" and Diane Garey and Lawrence R. Hott's "Tell Me Something I Can't Forget" (10 tonight, KCET-TV Channel 28), throw these neat categories into sometimes interesting confusion.

Aviad takes her all-women film crew--some Israeli, some Palestinian--in a meandering traverse through Israel and the occupied territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to encounter women coping daily with the guns, the soldiers, the terror and the suspicions as common as the Middle Eastern sun.

The women on both sides of the dividing line share a mutual opposition to each other, but also the private concerns, especially those of motherhood, that only Aviad's camera can see.

Her deliberative observations, done in a classic neo-realist style rarely seen on television, slow down the quick pace of news flashes by which we usually receive Middle East reports. A Palestinian woman on the West Bank is allowed to talk to the bottom of her soul about how Israeli-imposed curfews caused a painful childbirth that resulted in the death of her baby. An Israeli boutique saleswoman and former soldier recounts--as trendy customers shuffle through the clothes racks--demeaning episodes she experienced in the army.

Aviad's purpose is to humanize both sides, but she also reveals that there's no question that life for Israeli women far surpasses that of their Palestinian sisters. While one group may openly protest, criticize and organize for reform, the other appears increasingly dominated (at least in Gaza) by fundamentalist male Muslims who have decreed that all women must cover their heads. Palestinian feminists seem to be fearsomely outnumbered; the implicit message here is that their only hope is not simply a future Palestinian nation, but a democratic one.

While "The Women Next Door" goes back and forth from micro to macro at will, "Tell Me Something I Can't Forget" fuses the two as it documents writer Pat Schneider's writing class for women in western Massachusetts public housing projects. The title comes from a Tess Gallagher poem, and also stands for Schneider's key instruction: Write what matters to you, and it will matter to others. Her students are known to us only through their stories and poems; their accounts of inadequacy, abuse and desire far surpass any mere facts about their lives, and their budding art turns their private pains into something macro indeed.

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