Film festival brings Palestinian history to life | Arts and Culture News

Ramallah, Occupied West Bank – Black and white images of Jaffa before 1948, the ravishing coastal city known to Palestinians as the “bride of the sea”, slowly moved across the large screen of the Qattan cultural center in Ramallah, in the West Bank due to Israel occupied.

With archival photographs from 1930 to 1948, as well as rich sound design and video testimony of a charismatic elderly man expelled from Jaffa by his family, director Rashid Masharawi takes viewers on a fascinating historical journey that brought the Palestinian Jaffa to life.

It is one of nearly 60 domestic and international films screened from November 1 to 7 in the ninth edition of the film. Palestinian Film Day Festival held annually in seven Palestinian cities. This year’s theme is “speak to visual memory”.

From footage of people working on the harbour – whether fishing or packing Jaffa’s famous oranges – to family and friends enjoying time on the beach, elderly men sit in cafes With shisha smoking and family portraits, Masharawi makes the audience feel they are present at that moment on time.

“I can’t take my eyes off the screen,” said my friend, who accompanied me to the movie screening on November 5, expressing the same reaction as me.

Masharawi, who was born in the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, and whose family was also expelled from Jaffa in 1948, has speak the 60-minute documentary titled “Recovery” is “a cinematic experience that restores their memories as well as ours – as an attempt to restore our relationship with time, spaces and events”.

Through the memory of the elderly man, Taher Qalyoubi, born in 1929, the film addresses key moments in Palestinian history, including mass uprisings against oppression by occupation. British and Zionist colonialism culminating in Nakba – violent ethnic cleansing of Palestine to establish the Jewish state of Israel in 1948.

He recalls the last thing his mother said to him and his siblings when he was expelled by the Zionist militia on April 24, 1948: “Children, look closely Jaffa, God knows when we’ll be. may see him again.”

Speaking to the camera, Qalyoubi explained the question that kept repeating in his mind: “Is it possible? Is it possible that all of this happened to Jaffa and Jaffans? “

This is exactly the question that comes to my mind – and in the minds of many Palestinians, especially when visiting prominent cities like Jaffa and Haifa, which have undergone ethnic cleansing of Palestinian residents, to Again we search for our traces in these spaces.

To me, Masharawi’s film does what it claims to: it succeeds from the outset in mending our relationship with these places and events; it shows us a time when our homeland belonged to us.

Movie Jaffa
Masharawi’s film also includes archival images of Palestinian refugee camps that sprung up from Nakba in 1948. The plight of Palestinian refugees is the longest unresolved refugee issue in the world, with six million registered refugees now [Zena Al Tahhan/Al Jazeera]

Fierce competition

With a thorough and rich selection of films, the festival of Palestinian Cinema Days, organized since 2014 by the Ramallah-based organization Filmlab, never fails to surprise.

The Ramallah Palace of Culture Hall is always packed on the opening and closing nights of the film festival with around 800 people attending each occasion, in addition to hundreds of others during the six days of the festival, with the screenings throughout the cities of Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Gaza Strip and Haifa, where various indie fiction, documentaries and short films are shown.

The film festival not only provides a platform for local films and filmmakers, but also introduces the Palestinian public to new perspectives through Arab and international films, at a time of uncertainty and tension. politically straight.

Each year, the festival also hosts the Palestine Sparrows in the Sun Award, which awards large monetary prizes, with the top prize of $10,000 granted to film production. Twenty-four locally produced films competed this year.

Mish’al Qawasmi, a filmmaker from Jerusalem who won the top prize for his film The Flag, said he wasn’t expecting a win, especially since this year’s competition was so strong.

“In my opinion, this year’s competition is the fiercest ever. The names of the competitors are known and are the rising generation in the field of cinema. They are the ones taking the next step forward,” he told Al Jazeera during the closing screening on November 7.

“It’s a great feeling to win. But it feels even better when you hear people around you clapping and calling your name. I have been in the film industry for a long time, and the biggest prize is to see all these people happy for me,” he added.

This year, the festival also held a person program with a series of films marking 40 years since the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) expelled Beirut in 1982.

Hanna Atallah, the festival’s director, said the festival is important because “nobody can tell our story like we can”. In any movie, Atallah told Al Jazeera“The most important question remains: who produces the images.”

The film ending this year has the participation of Farha – Jordan officially won the 95th Academy Award in the category of International Feature Film 2023 of the Academy Awards – with the participation of two famous actors Ali Suleiman and Ashraf Barhoum. Directed by Jordanian director Darin Sallam, the film is based on a true event about a 14-year-old girl locked in her home’s pantry in a small village in Nakba.

Through cracks in the pantry’s wooden door, viewers live through the horrific events of 1948 through the eyes of a teenager as a silent witness, changing her forever.

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