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Palestinian Films: One lens, different stories

Palestinian Films: One lens, different stories
Heba Hendawi

Many films and documentaries are available online. They are all what writers and producers can do to express their opinions and show the whole world what is really happening there

Heba Hendawi

 This week I was not sure what the right topic to write about amid all what is happening few kilometers away from where I live. In Gaza the situation is heart-breaking and the limited videos we get are devastating. Then I opened Facebook to find that The Royal film Commission in Jordan put links to a number of Palestinian films free on its page. This directly caught my attention to watch them and see what it means to be a Palestinian and what a film depicting their life might be like.  I have seen a lot of documentaries and I am following them day by day but when it comes to art and film making, it is definitely another perspective.

“To my Father”, a 53 minutes documentary about photography. Through the life of two photographers we are introduced to Palestine prior to its occupation. People were happy, peaceful and enjoying life at its most. They were the masters of their past, present and futures. “We were not afraid,” the narrator comments on the photos that they used to take everywhere. On the sea, at school, in the streets or at the studio. Palestinians were excited to document happy moments of their lives and photographers were keen on producing the best photo ever. They exerted a lot of effort embellishing them and beautifying all the flaws adding frames or drawing flowers and nice items. Archives were proudly saved for future reference and more duplicates.

Tragically, 1967 attack turned their lives upside down. Photos were no more wanted as they were a reason for detention from the invaders. They arrested people and their companions in the photos. “Photos scared us at that time,” says the narrator. Their IDs changed as well as their photos. The natives started to see their photos in the publications of the UNRWA as refugees and aid recipients. This broke their hearts and they started to hate photos. Even the background of the pictures was no more of the beautiful and quiet land of Palestine but rather a war zone of burned trees and destroyed houses.

202311mena_palestine_gaza_israeli_airstrikes_nuseirat_campWith the 1st uprising, photos were a clear depiction of the violence, slaps, kicks and attacks of the Israelis. They were no more a documentation of happy moments but rather a proof of injustice. Then in 1993, with the advent of the Palestinian authority to Gaza, they celebrated their flag for the first time. They were allowed to raise it and capture photos with it. He phrases that time as “delusional peace.” The same lens that once captured the happy proud people of Palestine now captures their suffering. The aim changed. The photos are no more black and white yet they are ugly. They no more will to save the negative in the archive for it is a reminder of humiliation and loss. The land was cut into pieces with check points full of cameras for surveillance and control not for sharing a happy moment.

For 75 years the Palestinians were subject to all kinds of attacks and violence and the whole world is watching documentaries about a nation that was once screaming for help!

“Ambulance” is another documentary I watched about the daily life of a volunteer in Gaza. A 23 year old photographer decided to be part of the ambulance teams in the 2014 attack. An 80 minute film takes us in life streaming through alarming moments of bombing to civilians peacefully sleeping in their homes. We jump with the paramedics to help and we shiver when they are attacked themselves. In “Shujayya” district, people were only given a one minute ultimatum to evacuate their homes! 1 minute to flee for your lives is a desperate race with time. People were terrified and the only safe way to run for their lives was through ambulances. Mohammad the photographer and narrator of the film was in so much agony witnessing all the blood and destruction that he ran home himself. He tried to seek refuge in his house among his family but to no avail. The situation is worse than we think and the suffering is beyond documenting.

Also read: ‘Dozens’ of militants, at least 165 Gazans killed on Day 85 of conflict

“Gaza Calls” is the third documentary I watched and broke my heart as a mother. It tells the story of two young men that were separated from their families. One left Gaza to study in Ramallah. It might sound a normal story. What’s wrong in this? Students move from one place to another to join universities. What’s the problem? The problem is this is Gaza not anywhere else. Palestine is cut into pieces and you cannot just move from one area to another without permission. Sometimes even if you leave you are not allowed to return. This is the case with a mother whose son left the West Bank to visit his father in Gaza and she failed to have him back.  She is separated from him for years. He cannot cross to them and they cannot go there either. I lived with her sobbing heart and tearful tears. Imagine being on your own land yet restricted to move from one place to another! The other young man graduated alone and attended the ceremony alone with a fade smile and sad heart. He got a permission to study in the West Bank but cannot go back to Gaza unless he accepts to stay there forever. He failed to travel to study Masters abroad via Jordan so the only choice for him was to go back to a big prison called “Gaza”. In tears the deprived mother stated: “Gaza is a constant pain”. The funniest thing for me in the documentary was the desperate call of both cases to the Israeli Human Rights organization to help them reunite with their families! They needed human rights volunteer to help them live normally in their own land. What an irony!

Many other films and documentaries are available online and produced with sincere passion. They are all what writers and producers can do to express their opinions and show the whole world what is really happening there. It is not fair to be deprived of basic human rights to live, learn and feel safe. The suffering they had before cannot be compared to the elimination they are enduring at the moment. For 75 years the Palestinians were subject to all kinds of attacks and violence and the whole world is watching documentaries about a nation that was once screaming for help!

Published under the International Cooperation with Middle East Business



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