Review of Palestinian Days Film Festival, Brisbane

What is my life worth?” asks a child standing in the rubble of Jenin, Palestine.

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.

Amber dances the Dabke at opening night of Palestinian Days Film Festival
Opening Night of Palestinian Days Film Festival, Brisbane. Photo: Carolyn Stubbin

The festival consisted of films made by Palestinian and other filmmakers who support the Palestinian people in their struggle for self determination. In the period between 2002 and 2006 there was a burst of documentaries produced — an intifada of 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 young person, 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 been shown on Australia TV for political reasons. For example, SBS – TV is not permitted the use of the term “Palestinian land” in news reports about the Middle East. The SBS ombudsman said:The land concerned remains the subject of protracted and deep dispute and therefore the reasonable viewer could consider that the use of the term “Palestinian Land” indicates a lack of impartiality as required under the Codes.” The triennial funding of SBS would not be in question on this issue, management have toed the position of the Australian government perfectly: ‘No Justice for Palestine’.

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, Muslim Aid Australia and Justice for Palestine.

Prior to the festival the films were reviewed and classified and submitted to the censor. Many were rated R 18+ and MA 15+ because they depict violence done to Palestinians, many of them children. Palestinian children at the cinema were unable to see violence on film that they had encountered in their daily lives on the West bank.

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[1], Samaan[2] and Hind[3] Khoury and Ismail Daiq[4] 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[5]’. It demonstrates the failure of the two state solution advocated (previously, at least) by the people interviewed in the film.

Jenin Jenin (2002) by Mohammed Bakri

Other festival films show the humanitarian crisis and the courage and determination of the Palestinian people. Of these, the award-winning Jenin Jenin[6] by Mohammed Bakri is particularly powerful because it shows how ordinary people resist the occupation. Banned in Israel, Jenin Jenin is dedicated to Lyad 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, and films. Finally the United Nations appointed a commission of inquiry, but Israel refused to let its members visit Jenin. Will prosecution of Israeli war crimes in Gaza in December/January 2009 be thwarted as well? Jenin Jenin 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 was 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 during the devastation of Jenin. “What is my life worth?” she asked as she stood there in the rubble and then tells us that she and all her people will resist and win the struggle for their homes and their lives.

Since the Madrid conference in 1991 there has been a promise of peace through negotiation with Israeli governments. Yet, in the years that followed, hundreds of settlements have been built, housing for economic refugees lured there by cheap accommodation, 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 West bank 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 Janice Abo Ganis spoke about how the films were made including the making of their own ‘Watani Habibi – My beloved homeland’. After the screening of ‘Frontiers’ and ‘Jerusalem’ on Saturday, Michael Shaik from Australians for Palestine spoke about the current situation in Gaza and the occupied territories.

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 were supportive and the University of Queensland Student Union provided an excellent venue. A photographer provided beautiful shots of the festival like the one shown above 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.

But how to break down The Iron Wall?

There is a march on Gaza planned for 5th December 2009. Justice for Palestine, like many other groups around the world, intends to send a representative on that march.

But what if all the solidarity groups worldwide were to organise a March of Return – this time to Gaza, the West Bank and the occupied territories – a Return to Palestine from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria? This would take a lot of organisation but it is not impossible.

The convoys to Gaza earlier in 2009, Viva Palestina, proved that.

Ian Curr, October 2009

More photos of the festival can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/memsahib1.

References:

For the program of the PDFF in Brisbane click here


[1] Prof. Jeff Halper founded Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) which resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories.

[2] Peace and Democracy Forum.

[3] Minister of State in the Palestinian Authority in early 2005.

[4] 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.”

[6] 2002 – Best Film – Carthage Film Festival, Tunisia; 2002 – The Critics Prize – Ismalia Film Festival, Egypt

Child, what will you remember
When you recall your sixteenth year
The horrid sound of helicopter gunships
The rumble of the tanks as they drew near
As the world went about it’s business
And I burned another tank of gasoline
The Dow Jones lost a couple points that day
While you were crying in the City of Jenin
—”Jenin” by David Rovics

3 thoughts on “Review of Palestinian Days Film Festival, Brisbane

  1. Arab Film Festival 2009 at Dendy Portside says:

    Hi there,

    My name is Alex and I wish to introduce myself. I work for Dendy Portside Cinema in Hamilton as the Events & Publicity Manager.

    During the weekend of 20th – 22nd November 2009, Dendy Portside will be proudly hosting the Arab Film Festival 2009. Please see the Press Release below.

    I am looking for ways to expose this wonderful event to Arab communities from whose native countries these films come from. It is not that often that we have the chance to see films from this part of the world, and I am thrilled to be able to pass to your organisation an invitation to attend.

    Would you please let me know if you are able to, and willing to promote this event to your database of members, or any affiliated organisations who might also be interested. We could do a giveaway of certain number of double passes for the Opening Night’s Film Captain Abu Raed to your members, or any of the sessions for that weekend.

    The event organisers, Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE), will also have a forum attached to the festival around the subject of Arabs in Brisbane and their engagement with the Arts. It will be a 1 hour free forum at 5pm on Saturday 21 November, with 3 people on a panel and then Q&A from Audience. This will be good way to have a special little event to celebrate the well established Arab Australian networks in Brisbane.

  2. Boycott the Jerusalem Quartet! says:

    It was decided at this meeting to boycott the Jerusalem Quartet performance at the Conservatorium of Music on Wed 11 November 2009 at 6pm. See JFP Website for details

    Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign planning meeting

    This meeting will hear reports about the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign and plan building support for the campaign in Brisbane. Discussions will include the campaigns against Caterpillar and L’Oréal and the campaign to build support amongst trade unions for the BDS.

    Wednesday October 28, 6:30pm
    TLC Building (2nd floor), 16 Peel St, South Brisbane

  3. David Rovics says:

    Hi folks!

    …Lots of people are encouraging me to participate in a trip to Gaza being planned for early January. I’d love to participate, but would need a plane ticket in order to do so. If anybody has the resources to arrange for such a thing please let me know…

    THIS MONTH IN HISTORY AND SONG

    So my website got hacked a couple weeks ago (whoever did it stuck a big Israeli flag on my bio page — who knows), and in the process of working with Harvey, Tao and John to reconstruct it I realized I really wanted to make improvements on the “This Month in History and Song” section, so over the course of several days I did… The results are now up and the direct link is:

    http://www.davidrovics.com/historySong.php

    Please let me know what you think, if you notice any broken links, if you have suggestions for other dates I should put in there, etc. And of course feel free to spread the word about it if you like it. I think it might be of particular interest to teachers and radio programmers. It’s now updated to include my most recent songs and it includes direct links to download or stream each song, plus a “read more” link that gives people more info on the subject at hand.

    TOUR OF DENMARK AND THE CLIMATE TALKS

    In other breaking news, the midwest tour with Anne Feeney that ended a little over a week ago was fantastic. There are some photos from it on my Facebook page (mostly of my daughter Leila, who charmed the entire midwest of course). Next comes Denmark, and a little in Belgium and Norway as well. Tomorrow I fly from Portland to Copenhagen! Info on my tour of Denmark (and my gigs in Norway and Belgium) is up on my main page:

    http://www.davidrovics.com

    I know most of you receiving this don’t live in Denmark, but I thought I’d make a general announcement about it because many people are traveling to Copenhagen for the climate talks and accompanying conferences and protests. I’ll be there for that, too, and if you’re going and need any help on how to figure out what’s going on let me know. I’m not organizing anything there but I’m singing at various events and I know Denmark better than I know most places. (I love it, too…)

    WEST COAST TOUR WITH DANBERT NOBACON

    In March I’ll be doing a tour of the west coast of the US and Canada with Danbert Nobacon of the band Chumbawamba, and a great solo artist as well. The basic plan is to go from British Columbia to northern California, north to south, from March 7-21. There are spiffy new posters for the tour up here:

    davidrovics.prognet.dk/index.htm

    If you live in BC, Washington, Oregon or California and might be willing to be roped into organizing a show on the tour I’d love to hear from you! Or if you have friends who might be in that position please tell them about the tour and tell them to get in touch with me!

    OTHER NEWS

    My new “Pirate Santa” song will soon be up on the web as a cartoon, and it’s sure to be the Next Big Thing, so stay tuned… My two new CDs, Ten Thousand Miles Away and my retrospective CD, Waiting For the Fall, should be up on my estore (“buy stuff” link on http://www.davidrovics.com) by next week… I’m thinking about possibly going to San Francisco in mid-January for a large rally being planned around homelessness and poverty. Anyone have ideas on gigs or other things to do in the SF area in mid-January? Or en route from Portland if I’m driving? Lots of people are encouraging me to participate in a trip to Gaza being planned for early January. I’d love to participate, but would need a plane ticket in order to do so. If anybody has the resources to arrange for such a thing please let me know… I’m very open to ideas as far as what else I might do in January and February, as I’ll otherwise be hanging around Portland then, which is great, but a couple of gigs would also be great… Lastly, plans for another fabulous tour of Britain with Attila the Stockbroker in late April/May are under way. More on that later, but if anybody especially from other countries in Europe have any interest in organizing a show or two around that time I’d love to make plans to go to additional countries, and it’d be good to start making such plans early…

    All for now! Hope to see you on the road and in the streets!

    David

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