Palestinian Cinema Days: Promoting a vibrant film industry

Palestinian Cinema Days: Promoting a vibrant film industry
5 min read
11 November, 2021
From fiction and short films to documentary and real-life, Palestine Cinema Days showcased a rich, diverse and unique selection of Palestinian, Arab and international movies this year.

Hundreds of Palestinian, Arab and international actors, directors and artists gathered in Ramallah to mark the 8th Palestinian Cinema Days festival. Set up by the Film Lab Palestine Foundation, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and the Ramallah Municipality, the festival showcased a number of local, Arab and international films, including 11 movies that will be shown for the first time in the Arab world.

The festival opened on November 3 with the premiere of The Stranger, directed by Amir Fakher El-Din from the Golan Heights, a region in southwest Syria. This is the first feature film from the region and is a co-production of Syria, Palestine, Qatar and Germany. Recently, it was chosen to represent the Palestinian Territories officially in the category of Best Foreign Language Film in competition for the 94th Academy Awards of 2022.

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The film has been translated into English and includes dialogues in Hebrew. It takes the audience through eight actors and their families residing in the Golan Heights and provides an account of what happened in the area in 1967, after Israel captured the area, triggering a massive exodus of local residents and the evacuation of cities, towns and villages.  

Director Fakher El-Din told The New Arab, "I am thrilled that my film has been chosen to open such an important cinematic event. I take pride in the Golan Heights and the movie is living evidence that we are all in the same boat, living under occupation and expecting that someday, we will have a state," he said. 

"It is a movie about every one of us… it is about our fathers, grandfathers, and even about the upcoming generations," the director added. 

"Our partnership with the Palestine Film Days Festival comes from our belief in the importance of this artistic section in being present on international platforms to devote the Palestinian narrative"

About 65 films from Palestine, Arab and other countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Malta, Bosnia, Serbia, France, England, America, Denmark and Sweden, participated in the festival.

The most prominent movies shown included The Princess by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab, Sons of the Sun by Iranian director Majid Majidi, the historical drama To Where, Aida? by Bosnian director Jazmila Španić, Father by Serbian director Sardan Golbovic, The Third War by Italian director Giovanni Aloi, No Special Place by Italian director Uberto Pasolini, Lozo by a Maltese-American director Alex Camilleri, In Peace by French director Emmanuelle Bercotte, and concluding its edition on November 8 with the film Ali Your Voice by Moroccan director Nabil Aayush.

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The festival also presented a distinguished group of documentary productions, including The President by Danish director Camilla Nilsson, My Name is Greta by Swedish director Nathan Grossman, Their Algeria by Lina Sweilem, Our Memory by Syrian director Rami Farah, An X-Picture of a Family by Iranian director Firouzeh Khosrovani, A Room Without a View by Rose Corella, and Beautiful Things We Left Behind by Catherine Philip.

In cooperation with the Claremont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, the festival also presented a group of short films, including films for children. Aiming to build a culture of cinema and its importance to future generations, the festival screened Song of the Sea by Irish director Tom Moore, Fahim by French director Pierre François Martin-Laval, and The Black Mill by Polish director Mariusz Palij. 

Palestine Cinema Days 2 [Getty]
Attendees arrive for the opening of the Palestinian Film Days in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 3 [Getty]

"There is no doubt that our partnership with the Palestine Film Days Festival comes from our belief in the importance of this artistic section in being present on international platforms to devote the Palestinian narrative on the one hand, and to know other stories of peoples who do not pass through the official cinema or the mainstream," the Mayor of Ramallah Mousa Hadid told The New Arab.

He said that the festival intersects with the municipality's vision of decentralised cultural work. It expands the audience's circle across the historical space of Palestine on the one hand and raises the network of Palestine's relations around the world through the various festival programmes.

"We want to create a productive and vibrant film industry in Palestine based on professional and creative filmmakers"

Founder and director of the festival, Hanna Attalah, said that the festival aims at promoting the culture of cinema in the Palestinian territories and creating a platform that celebrates the emerging talents of Palestinian directors and those of the diaspora. It also wants to support local cinema. He called on all local, Arab and international cultural institutions to join efforts to support the cinema sector in the Palestinian territories and to help the sector to overcome the obstacles it is going through.

On the sidelines of the festival, Film Lab Palestine inaugurate the fourth edition of the Palestinian Filmmakers Forum, where participants discussed lessons learned from their experiences. The forum witnessed a series of meetings and workshops specialising in film production, with a focus on how to strengthen the production infrastructure to support a local film industry, especially as the cinema sector in the entire world is now trying to overcome the repercussions of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Palestine Cinema Days 1 [Getty]
Hundreds of Palestinian, Arab and international actors, directors and artists gathered for the festival [Getty]

Ola Salama, the executive director of Film Lab Palestine, told The New Arab that the festival continues to build on the accumulated successes achieved by the previous sessions, noting that the festival comes from the strategic vision of her foundation. 

"We aim at enhancing the cinematic culture in Palestine by providing an ideal space for producing and showing films, exchanging experiences, learning, sharing and inspiring. We want to create a productive and vibrant film industry in Palestine based on professional and creative filmmakers," she explained.

Sally Ibrahim is a Palestinian reporter with The New Arab based in the Gaza Strip