Third Cinema revisited

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Leeds Palestinian Film Festival 2020

Posted by keith1942 on November 18, 2020

This year’s programme is, as with so many events, an online or virtual festival. It runs from November 14th until November 28th. The programme is structured through four themes:

Annexation, Occupation Defiance

Roadmap to Apartheid is a 2012 US documentary. It was made by Ana Nogueira who is a white South African with Eron Davidson who is a Jewish Israeli. They use their knowledge of the two states and their settler regimes, [the South African is past] to explore the parallels between them. They provide information and testimonies that show the similarities and differences of the two states. The testimonies are provided by Israelis, Palestinians and South Africans. The parallels are emphasized visually by running archive footage of both systems in split screens.

The parallels include occupation, enforced separation, violent suppression, ID controls, housed demolition and bantustan-type areas. The South African testimonies also comment that the Israeli system includes actions that were not used in South Africa; these include the separation wall, armed helicopter surveillance and open warfare against Palestinians. On the last point it is worth noting the South African Apartheid regime invasion of Angola and surreptitious invasion in Mozambique. Alongside this the investigation highlights the military co-operation that existed between the two regimes fin the 1970s and 1980s.

The documentary ends with the argument that the only way to resolve the conflict is a ‘one-state’ solution; an argument that so many people resist.

Naila and the Uprising is a 2017 documentary produced by Just Vision and like their other title, Budrus, explores grass roots activism. Much of the story it tells takes place in the first Intifada in the late 1980s. Naila is a young Palestinian woman who marries a fellow activists. But their marriage coincides with increased Israeli repression. Naila becomes a leading figure in a popular movement in which women play an important part. She becomes a target for the Israeli surveillance and security. During one spell in prison she suffers a miscarriage. Later she suffers further imprisonment, now accompanied by her young son. On release her partner is deported and the couple are once more separated. Naila’s story provides an example of the heroism and the cost of activism among Palestinians. The film uses interviews, archive footage and animation; and it provides a chronicle of the Intifada and of how ordinary Palestinian organised resistance.

The latter part of the film presents the US sponsored talks, [a rare US action sympathetic to the Palestinians] between Israel and Palestinians and the Oslo accords that followed. These show how the out-of-touch PLO leadership made an agreement without the participation of the activists who led the struggle. Predictably the agreement merely placated the US and it international partners whilst giving little to the Palestinians. This is a fine and at times moving record.

Jews Step Forward is a US documentary from 2015 that features a series on interviews with Jewish US citizens who at one time supported, in some way, Israel but now are part of the opposition to the Israeli occupation. The interviews are presenting in clips and the presentation cuts from one person to another. What adds power to their recollections and comments is that these clips also alternate with footage and images of Palestine, its history and its present.

The first half -an-hour presents people’s personal history and their involvement in Jewish culture and Zionism. Then for about 45 minutes they detail the history and impact of Zionist migration. Here we see footage from the early days of migration: the Nakba: 1967 and the enlarged occupation: the settlement movement: and the wars inflicted on Gaza.

In the final half-an-hour we see and hear the ways that they support the Palestinian struggle and, in particular, the Boycott – Divestment – Sanctions campaign. There is also comment on the responses, both from Israel and in the wider Zionist camp,

The whole offers a powerful testimony on the issues. Some of the illustrative material is pretty shocking; I do not remember this amount of brutal action in one title.

My main reservation is regarding the editing strategy. In the first part the interviewees’ comments are often extended. But as the documentary progresses the comments seem to be shorter and the cutting between people faster. This appears to follow the conventional editing style on television of ‘talking heads’. I find this approach does not provide space for complex comments and I do find that it subverts my attention. The documentary runs for nearly two hours but the treatment of the US role and interest in the Zionist State is rather underdeveloped; yet it is the main factor in perpetuating the Zionist occupation. Of course, this is all before the Trump administration.

But it is a powerful viewing with convincing testimonies.

Budrus is a Palestinian/Israeli documentary produced by ‘Just Vision’, an organisation supporting grassroots film-making. The village of Budrus, like much of the West Bank, suffers from  the construction of the Israeli ‘apartheid wall’. The film charts the non-violent resistance organised in the village and how, eventually, it was successful in producing some changes in the line of the wall and the impact on the village. However, during the resistance  many of the local olive trees were uprooted, residents were attacked by Israeli military as were supporting Israeli citizens who oppose the state policies. The film includes voices of the Palestinians, the Israeli’s and one Israeli member of the border police. The last appears to have emerged from the experience with the same irredeemable prejudices.

I saw the title when it was released in Britain in a 70 mninute version in 2009, the version available here is 82 minutes produced for a DVD release. It is a powerful testament to the quality of Palestinian resistance and the vicious nature of Israeli violence against Palestinians. The film, unusually, ends with a victory for Palestinians; but this is only one battle as the Wall and the occupation continue.

As Seen by Annemarie Jacir

AnneMarie Jacir is a talented and distinctive Palestinian film-maker.  When I Saw You / Lamma shoftak (2012) was her second feature as both writer and director.  It was released in Britain in 2014 and screened in Leeds that year. The story is set in 1967; the year of a further ‘Nakba’ for Palestinians as Israel added to the lands stolen and occupied in historic Palestine. The setting is Jordan and a Palestinian refugee camp but there is a hidden fedayeen base nearby. The fedayeen moved into Jordan when they lost their bases in the Jordanian holdings of Palestinian territory.

The two central characters are Mahmoud Asfa  as Tarek, a young boy, and his mother played by Ruba Blal as  Ghaydaa. Their husband and father is lost, presumably during the Israeli invasion of the same year. Both long, as do the other refugees, to return to their homeland. Tarek is consumed by the wish to see his father and as well as  returning  to their home. The wandering Tarek finds his way into the fedayeen camp where he becomes a sort of mascot. And his mother joins him there later. Much of the film presents a group of fedayeen recruits training for longed-for action against the Zionist.

The representation of the refugee camp and the fedayeen camp is completely convincing. And the situation of the mother and son is full of sympathy. Among the fedayeen there is a strong sense of optimism that they will regain their homeland. All through this Tarek’s desire to return is acute. At the climax he attempts jus this.

The nearest we come to sight of the zonists is a border land rover slowly patrolling fencing. They are, as in innumerable western and war films, an unseen enemy; the other. Here the film’s sense of space, finally visualised throughout, provides a moving and ambiguous note.

The film essayed a subject that has not featured so far in the Palestinian ‘new wave’. And the characters of mother and son are finely drawn. This offers an impressive, interesting and absorbing feature. Shot in colour and with English sub-titles for the Arabic songs and dialogue.

As Seen by Children

As Seen Through Creative Eyes

All told there are fourteen features that include both dramas and documentaries. In addition there are several supporting videos. As with earlier Festivals there are a range of views and experiences from amongst Palestinians and the few critical voices found among Israelis

The Festival is available on line through ‘InPlayer’ which is an online streaming platform. It claims to be ;

‘the world’s leading pay-per-view and subscription solution’.

It appears to be based in Britain and be an independent company. It relies on the Vimeo provision. There does not appear to be a test video to check reception but when I looked both the image and sound were of a reasonable quality. I have viewed two titles. both of which ran at 720 and there was some buffering.

You can check yourself on the Festival WebPages by looking at one of the ‘free’ videos like ‘Through the Eyes of Others – Launch Event’. This is useful as there is an introduction and a conversation regarding grassroots film provision.

You can buy a festival pass, but only if based in Britain, or buy tickets for individual titles. Note, with the latter your viewing window is 48 hours. The pass enables you to view right through the period.

Note: sadly the London Palestine Film Festival is running to almost the same dates with a different set of titles.

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