A Review of Palestinian Days Film Festival, Brisbane
Palestinian Days Film Festival was held in Brisbane’s Schonell theatre at the University of Queensland over the weekend 16-18 October 2009. It was organised by the Queensland Palestinian Association and Justice for Palestine.
The festival consisted of films made by Palestinians and individual who support the Palestinian people in their struggle for self determination. In the period between 2002 and 2006 there was a burst of filmmaking produced this intifada in Palestinian cinema. Films like Frontiers of Dreams and Fears and Arna’s Children are contemporary documentaries of a high technical standard that should be shown on prime time TV. A teenager, when asked what she thought of Arna’s Children shown on opening night, said that it put the violence (of the conflict) shown on TV in context. Yet the films have not be shown on Australia TV for political reasons. For example, SBS – TV will not permit the use of the term “Palestinian land” in news reports about the Middle East.
Opening night of the festival was a spectacular affair with the theatre booked out. People were treated to felafel rolls, dabke dancing, singing and music followed by a speech by the special representative of the Palestinian Authority in Australia, Izzat Abdul Hadi. He spoke about the films and the strong culture that they depict. In all 421 people saw the films and over $5,000 was raised to support the Palestinian people through organisations like Apheda – union aid abroad, Australians for Palestine, Qld Palestinian Association, and Justice for Palestine.
The films were reviewed and classified and submitted to the censor prior to the festival. Many were rated R+18 and MA+15 because they depict violence done to Palestinians, many of them children.
One film The Iron Wall sets out the main cause of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel – the occupation of Palestinian lands, villages and houses by settlers. Both Jewish and Palestinian commentators like Jeff Halper, Samaan and Hind Khoury and Ismail Daiq explained how Israel was trying to create ‘facts on the ground’ to deprive Palestinians of their land. The film shows the building of the wall by Israel by which means ‘Zionist colonization can develop’. It demonstrates the failure of the two state solution advocated (previously, at least) by the people interviewed in the film.
Other festival films show the humanitarian crisis and the courage and determination of the Palestinian people. Of these, the award-winning Jenin Jenin by Mohammed Bakri is particularly powerful because it shows how ordinary people resist the occupation. Banned in Israel, Jenin Jenin is dedicated to Iyad Samudi, the producer of the film, who returned home to Yamun after the shooting of the film was completed. On 23 June 2002, as Israeli forces besieged Yamun, Samudi was shot and killed as he was leaving a militarily-closed area with three friends.
The devastation of the village of Jenin by Israeli caterpillar bulldozers inspired inquiries, songs, reports, films. Finally the United Nations appointed a commission of inquiry, but Israel refused to let its members visit the scene. Will prosecution of Israeli war crimes in Gaza in December/January 2009 be thwarted as well? It has a scene with a small girl standing on the rubble of her town saying that when she heard that Sharon was coming to the Camp she was so angry she burst into tears because she had a great desire to take revenge on him… she told us how legendary the cowardice of the Israeli soldiers who hide inside their tanks when children throw stones and who dropped bombs that fell like rain on her family’s house and nearby houses for two weeks. What is her life worth she asked as she stood there in the devastated house and then tells us that she and all her people win resist and win the struggle for their homes and their lives.
Since the Madrid conference in 1991 there has been hope of peace through negotiation with Israeli governments. Yet, in the years that followed, hundreds of settlements have been built housing for proles lured there by cheap housing – duped by economic incentive. In Hebron violent and fundamentalist settlers tried to drive Palestinian residents from their homes. Settlement building increased after the Oslo Accord was mediated by President Clinton at Camp David in December 1992. Not a single settlement has been dismantled in the 17 years since.
The failure of the peace process was confirmed when Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, went to the temple mount with many troops and provoked the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Arabic: انتفاضة الأقصى ). Since that time Israel has invaded Gaza and Lebanon (Palestine, Summer 06) and placed a wall around Palestinian towns and villages on the West Bank. All this to contain the Palestinian resistance. These events are depicted in films like Arna’s Children, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem – the East Side Story and A Letter from Sarah.
During the festival filmmakers John Mandelberg and Janis Abo Ghanis spoke about how the films came about and the making of their own Watani Habibi – My beloved homeland. After the morning session on Saturday, Michael Shaik from Australians for Palestine spoke about the current situation in Gaza and the occupied territories after the screening of Frontiers of Dreams and Fears and Jerusalem. The East Side Story.
Thanks to all the many people helped organise the event.
We are amateurs all but made the festival a success through solidarity and practical sense. The mainstream media were contacted and some reference to the festival appeared in the Courier Mail, Quest newspapers, the ABC and some community radio stations. The alternative media and the web played their part in making sure people knew about the festival. The people at the Schonell theatre was supportive and the University of Queensland Student Union provided an excellent venue.
A photographer, Carolyn Stubbin, provided beautiful shots of the festival like this one of Amber dancing the dabke in front of the opening night crowd.
Thanks to all those who made the festival possible and to all those who came to see this touching human narrative of Palestinian struggle and determination.
Ian Curr, October 2009
 Jeff Halper founded Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) which resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories.
 Peace and Democracy Forum
 Minister of State Palestinian Authority in early 2005
 Ismail Daiq is the General Director of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC)
Vladimir Jabotinsky, leading intellectual of the Zionist movement, wrote: “Zionist colonization must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an The Iron Wall , which the native population cannot breach.”
 2002 – Best Film – Carthage Film Festival, Tunisia; 2002 – The Critics Prize – Ismalia Film Festival, Egypt
Palestinian Days Film Festival
October 16-18, 2009
Schonell Theatre, University of QLD
Phone: 0400 720 757
Featured dabke dance performance by Amber Hansen
and music by Phil Monsour
Festival opening by:
Palestinian Ambassador to Australia, Mr Izzat Abdulhadi