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Posts Tagged ‘Palestinian Film Festival’

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.

Wajib (2017) is the second title written and directed by AnneMarie Jacir in the Festival. The title translates as ‘duty’; the duty here is the traditional delivery of wedding invitations by hand. A father and his son, who now lives and works in Italy, drive round Nazareth with the invitations. They meet friends and relatives, drink innumerable cups of coffee, have a specially cooked meal, and, on a couple of occasions, are offered alcohol. Their journey is punctuated not just the numerous calls bit also by the conflicts between parent and off-spring. We learn that the wife and mother of this pair left them years before. Shadi, the son, lives with the daughter of an exiled PLO leader. That Shadi lives abroad and their different set of values cause repeated irritation between them. We also meet the daughter, Amal, in a sequence where they have to help her select her wedding dress.

Their whole journey and lives are dictated to by the Israeli occupation. This does not produce a direct confrontation, but constant pressure. Shadi is also incensed by the compromises than his father, a teacher, has made under the occupation.

The detail of life and of rituals among Palestinians is fascinating. The family conflicts are for a time amusing but also develop some serious drama. Jacir has a well honed ability to capture the ambience of life and of a particular culture. This is a fascinating study and always absorbing. And whilst the style is low-key very well done.

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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The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, Netherlands, Palestine, Germany, Mexico 2018

Posted by keith1942 on December 1, 2018

This new release was screened in the Leeds International Film Festival and was also the first title in the 2018 Leeds Palestine Film Festival which runs on until December 11th. The film was a fine production to grace the Official Selection programme in the Leeds Festival and a strong opening film story for the Palestinian Festival. The Festival catalogue describes the film as

“Both a nail-biting thriller and a heart-breaking love story.”

This is a film that combines genres, an ‘infidelity’ film, a thriller and, at times, I felt it had tropes found in spy films. The main story concerns an adulterous affair between an Israeli woman, Sarah (Sivan Kerchner) and a Palestinian man, Saleem (Adeeb Safadi). This is treated as tragedy, rather like the film versions of Nathaniel Hawthorn’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’. The thriller element is far from that of Fatal Attraction (1987) and there is no satire, unlike The Graduate (1967).

Whilst the film concentrates on the personal relationships, the situation, the occupation of Palestinian lands, structures the whole narrative. But the conflict between two peoples is amplified here by differences of class. Sarah is married to a high-ranking Israeli Officer, David (Ishai Golan) in the Israeli army security service. She is attempting to run her own business, a café, but this attempt has been made intermittent by David’s work leading to moves. She has a young child. Saleem works as a delivery driver for a Israeli bakery and is married to Bisan (Maisa Abd Elhadi) who is pregnant. Sarah and David live in West Jerusalem, Salem and Bisan live in East Jerusalem.

In addition to his work as a delivery driver Saleem is persuaded by his brother-in-law, [not a sympathetic character] to use the van for an unofficial delivery service in the West Bank after work: This includes Bethlehem and beyond the ‘apartheid wall’ constructed by Israel.

There are nuances here resulting from the occupation. Israeli licence plates are clearly distinguishable from those issued by the Palestinian Authority. It appears that Arab citizens of Israel, including Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, have the same type of plates as other Israeli citizens. The van Saleem drives has Israeli plates and at checkpoint he passes with ease whilst queues of cars with Palestinian plates are visible in the background. There are further nuances as the film features both the Israeli police and Israeli Security Service and the Palestinian Police and the Palestinian Security Service.

These all enter the narrative at various points after Saleem takes Sarah with him on a delivery to Bethlehem; their usual assignation take place in a car park. An argument in a café and the obvious presence of an Israeli vehicle in a Palestinian area lead to investigations. The Reports of the title are compiled by the Palestinian Security but later fall into the hands of the Israeli Security. As one investigation follows another the complexities of the situation emerge for the audience. And the feelings and values of both Sarah and Saleem are tested as are those of their partners, David and Bisan. We also see the different responses of both Israelis and Palestinians as the affair becomes known.

The film has been written and directed by two Palestinian brothers, Rami Musa and Muayad Alayan. They also produced the film through their company Key Films, with co-producers from Germany and Mexico. They have previously produced several short films and one other feature, Love, Theft and Other Entanglements (Al-hob wa al-sariqa wa mashakel ukhra 2015). I have not seen this film which does not appear to have had a British release. It does though suggest generic affinities with The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, the plot involves a Palestinian who mistakenly steals an Israeli car.

The Alayan brothers also worked on the cinematography and art design for this earlier films. Here they have assembled a skill production crew. Sebastian Bock provides the cinematography which does fine work with both interiors and exteriors. He also uses a hand-held camera for certain dramatic sequences, [presumably a steadicam with a loose setting]. The interiors range though daytime and night-time lighting, with chiaroscuro in places. This also applies to the exteriors, which include narrow streets, car parks, the ‘separation wall’ and at judicious intervals long shots of both sectors of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and briefly the empty desert landscape of the South. Whilst these settings focus on the development in the plot they also are reminders of the conflict setting which is so important to the narrative. And the editing by Sameer Qumsiyeh keeps up a a narrative pace that maintains both the drama and the developing mystery of the story.

The film works well as a drama and is absorbing and at times generates real tension. There are relatively explicit sex scenes, unusual for a Palestinian film. Added to this is the representation of key aspects of the lives of Palatinates under Israeli occupation. As is regularly noted in the media East Jerusalem is at the conflicted edge of the struggle for Palestinian independence. The Israeli control and harassment of those Palestinian living in East Jerusalem is hedged round with restrictions and constantly threatens their homes and their culture. This emerges with increasing power as the film’s narrative develops.

The title demonstrates that the Palestinians, despite lacking a proper state, have been able to develop a proper national cinema. Even the Hollywood Academy seems to have recognised that. What we are seeing now are genre films but which still address the actual political situation under occupation.

The film was shot digitally and is in 2.35:1 and colour. The dialogue is in Arabic, Hebrew and English with the first two languages translated in English sub-titles. The Festival screening was the British premiere and to date there is not a British release listed for the film which neither has a BBFC certificate. The DCP for the screening was provided by Heretic Outreach, based in Athens,

“Heretic Outreach is a boutique world sales agency that supports and encourages outstanding films and film-makers to reach out to the world, by becoming a key partner for solid strategies in festivals, sales and alternative distribution models.”

This is a new agency but their aim is to be applauded. One has only to look at the programme of major Film Festivals, for example the Berlinale, to realise that there is a large and apparently really worthwhile stream of films that are difficult or impossible to see in a theatrical formats in Britain. Still one would expect this film to feature in other Palestinian film events round Britain, of which there are now a number. Hopefully it also be picked up by a distributor for a more general release.

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