Molly Stuart, nominated to Best Documentary at Imagineindia 2020 for Objector

Molly is a director, producer, and editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Molly was a 2018 Women Peace and Security Fellow and 2019 Resident with SFFILM. While earning an MFA in Cinema at San Francisco State University, Molly won the Bill Nichols Excellence in Cinema Award, the Canon Best in Show Award, the Spotlight on Women in Film Award, and the Barbara Hammer Award. Her first feature documentary, Objector, won awards at Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and St. Louis International Film Festival and landed in the Top 10 Audience Favorites at IDFA. Molly came to filmmaking as a community organizer and continues that work today.


When I first met Atalya Ben-Abba she was just beginning high school and dreaming of becoming a playwright. Her creativity was striking—almost as striking as her wit and fighting spirit, which she frequently unleashed in arguments with her older brother, Amitai. When she told me she thought she’d be an excellent combat soldier, I trusted her. A few years later, Amitai called to tell me that Atalya was considering putting that spirit to very different use—she was talking about becoming a conscientious objector.

I did not consider myself a filmmaker at the time—in fact, I knew close to nothing about how to make a documentary. But I did know that Atalya was about to make an incredibly significant decision, and that her story could change the way people understand militarization and the power of young women to confront it.

Accompanying Atalya on her journey to understand the historic conflict into which she was born, I was struck by her ability to constantly question her own beliefs and those of others, yet also to identify injustice and act on her convictions. Her capacity for understanding and compassion is matched only by her defiance of the status quo, and those who ask her to maintain it. But her defiance is not that of a seasoned activist or someone out to prove herself. In fact, the principled humility with which Atalya strayed from her expected path caused many to reconsider the cost of their own compliance. Witnessing this dynamic was one of my most memorable experiences of the film.

As an American—a foreigner, yet not far politically removed from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—I have been deeply alarmed by the simultaneous upsurge in antisemitism and support for the Israeli military, both bolstered by the current administration. So I found Atalya’s message to be urgently relevant to Americans. I believe it’s vital to invigorate public support for Jewish peace activists, given that the US is growing simultaneously more anti-semitic and more complicit in the grave consequences of Israel’s human rights violations. OBJECTOR is one small antidote to both these dangerous trends.

Atalya is part of a long legacy of conscientious objectors that now form the movement called Mesarvot (feminine plural for “we refuse” in Hebrew). These Israelis are not only critical of their government’s military occupation; they are also unapologetic in their feminist vision for demilitarization, antiracism, and equality. And while only a sliver of their lives and work found a place in this film, I was influenced by each of their unique and compelling stories.

The young people in OBJECTOR are courageous yet ordinary—they ask us to consider how the machinery of power in society operates and what would happen if we pulled our own lever, however small, in the direction of dignity for everyone. My hope is that their acts of civil disobedience can be a stimulus for all of us, no matter what injustice we are facing, to act boldly on our collective visions of liberation.