Return to Gaza

Brisbane Premiere screening of Return to Gaza

Thursday March 31, 2011
7pm at The Schonell Cinema, University of Queensland

Featuring discussion with director Michael Weatherhead and Samah Sabawi – Australian-Palestinian writer, co-author of Journey to Peace in Palestine and a former executive director of the National Council on Canada Arab Relations.
$10/$5 concession

Contacts: Ian 0407 687 016, Don 3358 4385


The story of a refugee who tries to go back. A One Hour Documentary Directed & Written by Michael Weatherhead Produced by Chantal Denoux © 2010 One Planet Films All Rights Reserve

Short Synopsis

Gaza is Fetah Sabawi’s ancestral home. He dreams of going back there to live. He wants to teach music to refugee children. He sets off with his wife and kids for Gaza. He wants to be part of the solution. What chance does he have of achieving any of these things? Return To Gaza reveals a deeply personal insight into the problems of the Middle East conflict through the eyes of a Palestinian-Australian who was born a refugee and tries to return.

Long Synopsis

‘Return To Gaza’ is a personal insight into the Middle East Conflict through the eyes of a Palestinian Australian, born on a refugee camp in Jordan, who wants to return to Gaza with his family.

This 53 minute documentary covers the difficult journey of Fetah Sabawi, a successful musician whose dreams of peace takes him from Australia to Gaza through Egypt, Israel & the West Bank to Gaza. With his wife, Ola and their two children, Sabawi plans to move to Gaza to head-up a project, funded by UN, to teach music to children. A new life for a rock star going into a war zone.

Sabawi’s amazing journey coincides with the first Palestinian elections since the beginning of Gaza and the West Bank’s occupation and the subsequent election of Hamas. In this film, we discover with our protagonist the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the response from the West. His journey and fate are punctuated by the dramatic events of the Middle East and the involvement of world’s leaders as we see statements from Palestinian President Abbas, US Vice President Biden and US Secretary of State Clinton.

Including interviews with the former Ambassador to Egypt, Monzer Eldajani, the elected Hamas member Dr Yusuf al-Shrafi, the acclaimed Australian author Antony Loewenstein and Israeli Peace activists, the film provides a revealing insight into the political minefield of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict and it’s effect on their daily lives amongst the huge walls, check-points and constant military presence.

‘Return to Gaza’ is a poignant story and personal discovery, of a determined westerner and artist facing unbearable issues and losing hope to live one day in Peace in his ancestral home in Gaza.

Central Character

Fetah Sabawi is a successful Melbourne musician whose dreams of peace takes him from Australia to Gaza through Egypt, Israel & West Bank.  Fetah Sabawi was born on a refugee camp in Jordan. His family came to Australia when he was seven and he became a professional musician when he left school. He has played in number of successful bands over the years, including Superheist, Karnivool, Revolucion Street and Jericco.

His music from Revolucion Street is features in this documentary. Fetah currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife Ola and their two children but he still has dreams of going back to Gaza to live.

“As much as I feel Australian and as much as I consider Australia to be my country, I’m still an Arab Australian or a Palestinian Australian. I never knew what it was like to grow up in your own neighbourhood amongst your own people, on your own streets, going to your own schools, and growing up speaking your own language and achieving things in your own country. I’ve always lived in other peoples countries.”

Directors Statement – A Great Insight into the Middle East

When the idea for a documentary with Fetah came up, I saw it as a great opportunity to see the Middle East conflict through the eyes of someone who lives in two worlds. While Fetah speaks and behaves like a Westerner, he is also fluent in Arabic and understands Middle Eastern culture. So I felt that Fetah was able to transport a Western audience into the Palestinian world and had the personality to do it well.

It was a pretty exciting time to be in the Middle East. Getting into Gaza was a huge problem, which features in the documentary. There were guns everywhere but with the Palestinian elections, the place was crawling with international film crews, and so both sides were behaving themselves. The only time I felt unsafe was when we had a security contingent escort us around Gaza, driving very fast with serious weapons on their laps.


Michael Weatherhead, Director

Michael Weatherhead has a particular interest in film, media and business strategy. He has worked for several years in film as a director, producer and writer in documentary following a career in business consulting/management specialising in innovation and entrepreneurship. Michael’s qualifications include a Masters Degree in Entrepreneurship, a Bachelor of Economics, and studies in Film and Education.

Michael is the founder of One Planet Films, a company established to produce documentaries. His projects include:

* Joyfest TVC, 2005, Director/Producer

* The Guru Experience, 2006, 26 min documentary, Producer, (Byron Bay Film Festival 2007)

* Road To Palestine, 2008, 1 hr doco, Producer/Director. (Byron Bay Film Festival 2008)

* Sustainable Living Festival, 2008, Short documentary, Camera/Co-producer

* Return To Gaza, 2010, 1 hr documentary, Director (11 Festivals, 4 Nominations, 2 Awards)

* Soundtrack to Peace, The New Musical Activists, Documentary in production, Director

* Gandhi, Obama & Me, Documentary in production US & Australia, Director

Chantal Denoux, Producer

Chantal Denoux travelled to disparate corners of the world while working as a journalist, producer or writer. She has won awards for her work as a songwriter, actor and producer. Chantal Denoux studied Psychology, Journalism & Filmmaking at Universities in Paris & in Sydney. Before working as a Producer, Executive Producer or Writer for Denoux Films Productions, Chantal worked in Film studios in France & Australia on Animation, Educational Programs, Human Rights films, Corporate Videos and TV Commercials.

Her productions include:

* Danger Zone, action series filmed in Hollywood and on the Gold Coast, Official selection in Oslo, Norway Film Festival & Thailand.

* My Home – Your War, Filmed in Iraq, Winner of 4 Awards for Best documentary, Social & Political issues (New York, Paris, Melbourne) & Selected in 17 International Film Festivals.

* Return To Gaza, Filmed in Israel, Gaza …2 Awards for Best Director (USA), 4 nominations for Best Documentary (UK) & 5 Selections (US, UK, South Africa, Thailand, Australia) at International Film Festivals.

* Valise and Bloke, series of hilarious animated dramas, First ep produced in India.

* 5′ 49” Opération Marco, French co-production Series ‘La Maitrise’, in post production

* Soundtrack to Peace, The New musical Activists, Documentary in production US, UK, Australia 2010-2011

* Gandhi, Obama & Me, Documentary in production US & Australia 2009-10

* Don’t Tell Dad, I’m a Stripper, Documentary in production 2010-2011

* Where is Mum? Feature romantic drama based on a true story in France, Africa and Australia. Production in 2011

* Robin’s Hood Web (working title), Feature drama in Ivory Coast (Africa) In development

Other Crew

Director, Writer Michael Weatherhead

Producer Chantal Denoux

Executive Producer Michael Weatherhead

Director of Photography Adam Arkapaw

Editor Mark Sbarrato

Additional Editing Scott Walmsley

Tim Parish

Script Editing Chantal Denoux

Mark Sbarrato

Sound Engineering Steve Berry, Lulu Madill, Tim Foley

Final Sound Mix Phil Hagstrom, David Gaylard, Ashton Ward

Wild Blue Music

Production Consultants Mark Poole

Andy Bambach

Colour Grade Andy Bambach, In Your Face Productions

Additional Camera Josiane Castilloux

Production Assistants Hilit Levy, Carmel McAloon

Map Designs Carlos Welsby

Translations Nadia Abu Yahia,

Fetah Sabawi

Transcriptions Jenny McMahon

Awards & Festivals


An Award of Excellence, The Indie Fest Film Awards USA, November 2009

An Award of Merit, Feature Documentary, The Accolade Competition, USA January 2010


Best First Film International, Swansea Bay Film Festival 2010

Best Documentary International, International Christian Film Festival 2010

Best Documentary International, Heart of England International Film Festival 2010

Best Film, Chagrin International Documentary Film Festival 2010

Festival Selections

Swansea Bay Film Festival UK, 8-16 May 2010

International Christian Film Festival UK, 1-5 June 2010

International Film Festival Thailand, 6-8 August 2010

Heart of England International Film Festival, 10-15 August 2010

International Film Festival Ireland, 4-11 September 2010

Chagrin International Documentary Film Festival USA, 12-16 October 2010

International Film Festival South Africa, 1-5 November 2010

Gold Coast Film Festival, 10-16 November 2010

International Film Festival Egypt 2010 (Festival Cancelled)

Asia Pacific Screen Awards, November, 2010



Producer Director, Executive Producer, Writer

PO Box 624 PO Box 624

Main Beach Mullumbimby

Qld Australia 4217  NSW Australia 2482

+61 419 808 808 +61 412 637 766

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