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Timely Imports 

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Bloody conflict roils the Middle East again, but war is not the focus of a documentary from Israel unspooling in Burlington on Sunday evening. Instead, It's About Time poses philosophical questions. And that really suits Ronen Schechner, a Shelburne resident who is the film's cinematographer. The 46-year-old Tel Aviv native brought his family to Vermont last summer in search of a less turbulent existence.

"We moved here because I was looking for a change in how we live. Also, at 16, children are obliged to join the Israeli Army," explains Schechner, whose oldest son is now 15.

The 2001 doc, in Hebrew with English subtitles, will be presented for free at 7 p.m. on Sunday as part of the Israel Center of Vermont's monthly film series at 212 Battery Street. "The subject was very hard to bring to the screen," Schechner says. "It's something you can't catch - it's time."

A Variety review was favorable: "What looks like a commonplace topic gets thoughtful and memorably clever treatment . . . a colorfully shot pic, which contemplates the nature of time, both in its universal and uniquely Israeli settings."

The two female filmmakers, Ayelet Meahemi and Elona Ariel, named their production company Karuna, which means "compassion for all sentient beings" in Sanskrit. How curious, then, that It's About Time seems to avoid noticing the proverbial elephant in the room.

"We interviewed all ages and all walks of life. The directors' choice was that they all would be Jewish," Schechner points out. "There's some racial diversity, but no Arabs or Palestinians - which would automatically make it political. This film is not political."

There are never easy answers in any discussion of Israel, which Schechner says is "about the same size as Vermont but with 7 million people, and here you have 600,000. "

A graduate of Tel Aviv University with a 10-year career in film and television, he first paid a yearlong visit to the Queen City in 1998. Schechner had read in a magazine "that Burlington is one of the best places in the U.S."

He and his wife Tamar, an American raised in Israel, were pleased to find a local Waldorf School for their three boys. Schechner made TV commercials for a bank and documentaries for an organization that takes choirs all over the world. From 1999 through 2005, he worked on other projects back in his homeland. It's About Time, which ticks along for 55 minutes to the accompaniment of a jazz score, may have the most overseas appeal.

After returning to the U.S., Schechner filmed a PBS "Frontline" program about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Ohmert and shot interviews for a documentary about peace in Israel - lately a quaint notion.

"I also do wellness consulting," Schechner adds. "I studied homeopathy in 1989 because I was looking for something more spiritual." Check out www.icvt.org for details about Sunday's screening.


Terrorism has a primarily fundamentalist face these days. Three decades ago in Italy, militant Marxists were wreaking havoc. Good Morning, Night partially fictionalizes a genuine episode: the 1978 kidnapping of Aldo Moro, the country's former premier. Written and directed by Marco Bellocchio, the poetic thriller is on tap Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. in Dana Auditorium, courtesy of the Middlebury College Language Schools 2006 International Film Festival.

The movie centers on four young members of the Red Brigades, self-styled "revolutionary soldiers" who imprison Moro (Roberto Herlizka) in a Rome apartment. Although he comes across as a dignified eminence grise, his captors consider him a symbol of the bourgeois ruling class.

Unlike her strident comrades, Chiara (Maya Sansa) feels sympathy for this supposed devil. The only woman in the quartet, she contrasts the increasingly grim situation with her family's proud heritage of fighting fascists in the 1930s and '40s.

Meanwhile, the Pope declines to intervene and the government refuses to negotiate. Many historians contend that Moro's own center-right Christian Democrat Party had decided his martyrdom would provide an ideal excuse for the crackdown on dissent that followed.

Bellocchio delves into magic realism by dramatizing Chiara's guilt-ridden dreams. And officials seeking supernatural advice in a séance, a scene presumably based on true accounts, is something the mad dictator in novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Autumn of the Patriarch might have done. On the soundtrack, "Shine On, You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd (a classic song about ex-bandmate Syd Barrett, who died last week) contributes to the sense of a society becoming unhinged.

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Susan Green


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