Palestinian festival celebrates films about life under Israeli occupation | Arts and culture


Ramallah, Occupied West Bank – The curtains have been raised on the eighth edition of the Palestinian Film Festival, with the final screening of the winning films focusing on life under Israeli occupation and in exile which took place earlier this week in the West Bank city of Ramallah. busy.

The Palestine Cinema Days film festival which celebrates Palestinian filmmakers and films focused on Palestine, which have received significant monetary prizes, with the top prize of $ 10,000 being awarded for film production.

A short film, Siri Miri, which means “to and fro” in Arabic, received $ 3,000 and a feature documentary, Little Palestine: Diary of Siege, $ 5,000, in the Sunbird Awards competition.

At least 2,000 people attended over the six-day festival, with screenings in the cities of Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Gaza Strip and Haifa, where some 60 different independent Arab and international dramas, documentaries and short films were shown. been presented.

Viewers were caught in a whirlwind of emotions; they finished the first – a six-minute short – with laughs, and the second, a documentary, with non-stop tears and an air of devastation.

At least 2,000 people attended over the six-day festival, with screenings in the cities of Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Gaza Strip and the Israeli city of Haifa [Abbas Momani/AFP]

While presenting two very different aspects of Palestinian reality, the films overlap in the emotions they describe and evoke, of being locked up.

Siri Miri, by 23-year-old director Luay Awwad reflects the dark humor of life under Israeli military occupation.

Two young men, who are struggling to find something to entertain themselves, ask Siri from the iPhone for suggestions. Presented with a list of activities one would normally be able to do, such as “going on a road trip”, the two friends find themselves unable to make any of the suggestions.

“Young people will be able to identify themselves”

It ends with Siri’s suggestion, “go to the beach,” after which viewers are presented with a photo of their car blocked by the Israeli separation wall in Bethlehem. “Siri, baby, we live in Palestine!” One of the young people replies, to which Siri says, “Did you mean Pakistan?” – a response common to many Palestinians, which made viewers laugh.

Awwad, from the small town of Beit Sahour in Bethlehem, said this film shot in Palestine is the first he has ever made, and that he produced it during his second year as a university student. in Bethlehem.

“This film is the closest thing to me; I have suffered from this problem since I was a teenager and started going out in the city. I’m going to be 24 and I’m still suffering from the same problem – when someone really wants to switch off and have fun, there’s nothing they can do, ”Awwad told Al Jazeera.

“I think a lot of young people will be able to relate,” he continued, adding that he did not expect to win. “I think the judges really got to understand how the film comes from a deep place, from the spirit of the youth here.”

Awwad said he hopes to buy his own camera with the $ 3,000 so he can make films. “I feel like the film festival really enjoys supporting young people and emerging people – the award means a lot to me.

The second film screened Wednesday: Little Palestine: Diary of Siege was directed by Palestinian refugee Abdullah Khatib. The documentary tells the painful daily reality during the Syrian government’s siege on the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria between 2011 and 2015. It tells the story of famine and bombing, and of being doubly displaced, first from Palestine then from Syria.

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Hanna Atallah, artistic director of the film festival, told Al Jazeera that the festival is proud to be able to award such awards to films focused on Palestine.

“We don’t have a local fund for film production, and there are no specialized institutions to support young people who are just starting their journey here, making their first films,” Atallah said. “At least we now have a production award for Palestinian filmmakers in their country. “

The third and largest prize – a production award of $ 10,000 – is intended to help filmmakers get their scripts through filming, post-production and distribution.

The money for the price of the production comes from tickets sold for the Palestine Cinema Days festival, Atallah said.

“Everyone in the audience who bought tickets is a producer in this movie, and it came from the idea of ​​helping each other, cooperating and raising money for someone who has a movie. and wants to produce it, ”he explained.

The winner of the production award, Amman-based filmmaker Dina Naser, said she feels very grateful. “It’s kind of a seed fund for me to be able to finish the movie.”

She told Al Jazeera that the award was particularly moving for her because, like millions of other Palestinian refugees settled in Jordan and stranded by Israel, Naser, 40, was never able to visit her.

“This is an award given by the most important place in my life – Palestine, but which I am forbidden to visit,” Naser said.


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