The Palestinian Days film festival, Brisbane,
6pm Fri to Sunday, October 16-18, 2009
Schonell Theatre, University of QLD
Sponsored by Justice for Palestine and the Palestinian Association of QLD
by Pam Rosengren
‘Lemonade’ , a short film which came out of a storytelling workshop for the children of a refugee camp. Inspired by a girl who takes flowers from her grandmothers garden to the people in the camp every day, one of the boys began to make lemonade to sell in the camp. It is a simple yet profound story of transcending limitations. Although the other films at the festival are not really for a child audience, children feature prominently in the festival overall.
Arguably the masterpiece of the Palestinian Days film festival is “Since You Left” directed by Mohammad Bakri. It is a literary, performative reflection on the filming of “Jenin Jenin” and the events in the directors life subsequent to that. The film is structured around a soliloquy at the grave of Bakris former creative mentor. The philosophical conversation between Bakri and his Israeli lawyer, who donated his time to try to reverse the order banning “Jenin Jenin” had me wishing I could obtain a transcript of the movie. The film explains, but does not explain away. This is particularly the case when unexpectedly a member of Bakris extended family becomes involved in terrorism. It documents the reaction of the family which might not be what you think.
“Watani Habibi, My Beloved Homeland” is a documentary of Palestinian protest music by John Mandelberg and Janice Abo Ganis. It ranges from traditional music with no political message other than that is is Palestinian culture with its roots in antiquity, through traditional works with a message strong enough to have the musician exiled, to lyrical contemporary pieces and even Palestinian rap.
Singer Rim Banna says she is unable to take up arms in the struggle, so uses her voice to convey it. As well as having an exceptional voice, Rim has exceptional insight into the creative process and its relationship to society. (She has a Facebook page.)
“Watani Habibi – My Beloved Homeland” will be screened at 6pm Sunday 18th at the Schonell Theatre, along with “The Iron Wall” which maps both the history of this vision from its inception in 1923 (yes, 1923) and the tortuous path of the wall which not only divides Palestinians from Israelis, but divides Palestinians from their farmlands and water supply. Although the other films at the festival are not really for a child audience, children feature prominently in the festival overall. One script, “Letter from Sarah”, was written by a twelve-year-old girl.
Another is the story of two young girls in different refugee camps who are brought together by a pen-pal program.
In “Gaza Strip”, children who are disconcertingly old beyond their years, with eloquence that transcends their semi-literate state, reflect on their daily lives and the impact of constant trauma. Arguably the most confronting film of the festival, “Arna’s Children” is made largely from old footage. Arna was a Jewish woman who started a theatre project for Palestinian children in a refugee camp. Her son
filmed this over the years. We witness the situation of these children, and we learn what becomes of them. Some of the later footage from television news is, to say the least, chilling, as we realize that these are the people we have watched grow. The film then returns to some of the earliest footage, and in so doing, without the need for narration or explanation, makes an inescapably strong case for cessation of human rights abuses.
We had to classify most of these films as unsuitable for children to view. Yet children have to live through this, and suffer the consequences.
With a special thanks to Pam Rosengren for the film reviews above.