Davide AbbatescianniI11.14.2023
Palestine Cinema Days: A Festival Without Borders
Unable to hold screenings in its own home country, Filmlab Palestine's annual exhibition of Palestinian cinema found support in 41 partner countries answering the call for justice and peace.

The 10th edition of Palestine Cinema Days, initially planned from October 24 to November 2, 2023 and set to play in five cities across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, had to be cancelled owing to the recent escalation of the Gaza-Israel conflict.

Nevertheless, Filmlab Palestine, the organisation behind the event, fought for the festival to take place anyway, albeit in a different format: in a number of venues worldwide, screening eight documentaries and fiction films “addressing various aspects of Palestine and life under occupation.”

“In light of the distortion of Palestinian history by the international press and official reporting that continues to dehumanize us and our suffering, as well as the legitimization of the massacre of us in Gaza—and with everything we have worked for since 1948 at stake—we felt that spreading our voices and stories beyond borders is the right move in these unbearable times,” Filmlab Palestine founder and artistic director Hanna Atallah told Projektor a few days after the event wrapped.

Since 2014, the organisation has worked on creating a sustainable hub for local film production through a programme committed to networking, training, and educating professionals and talents, while “supporting diverse, high-quality films as well as children-orientated content.”

The eight titles at this year’s Cinema Days included the likes of Raed Andoni’s Ghost Hunting (on the issue of Palestinian prisoners under Israeli occupation), Darin Sallam’s Farha (a re-enactment of the 1948 Nakba), and Elia Suleiman’s The Time that Remains (on the destruction of Nazareth). The selection was rounded off by Carol Mansour’s Stitching Palestine, Emanuele Gerosa’s One More Jump, Rashid Masharawi’s Curfew, Mickey Yamine and Philip Gnadt’s Gaza Surf Club, and Michel Khleifi’s Tale of the Three Jewels.

“The purpose of programming these films around the world was to provide a narrative of the various stages that the Palestinian people have gone through. This includes films produced in Gaza or about Gaza, as well as a focus on the history of the Palestinian people and their 75 years of suffering,” Atallah says. “The conflict has been going on for decades; it didn’t start on October 7[, 2023]. Therefore, November 2 was chosen as the anniversary of the ill-fated Balfour Declaration, to remind the world that the Palestinian tragedy did not begin with the recent conflict, but even before the Nakba of 1948.”

On the audience response to this year’s Palestine Cinema Days, Atallah says: “We received wonderful feedback from the audience who attended the film screenings, either through the screening venues or from friends who attended. The presence of the audience was distinguished, and most of the screenings were full. These screenings provided a platform for supporters of the Palestinian cause to gather, discuss, and express their opinions, especially in some countries where freedom of expression is restricted.”

“It’s important to promote the power of storytelling and to tell our story and our narrative—which itself faces a kind of war and denial.”

The initiative was set up with the help of several partners who, according to Atallah, “truly believe in justice and dignity, and have used this motivation to create a space for performances and narratives that come directly from Palestinians.” The partners include movie theatres, community centres, and universities. Among them is also the Beirut-based non-profit organization Aflamuna, with whom Filmlab has already collaborated in the past on projects like the Impact Lab, Al Awneh, and Next Generation.

“In the early days of the war, our friends Jad Abi Khalil and Farah Fayyad were in touch to support us during this dark time, and we discussed what could be done to address the brutality and violence that the Palestinian people were facing. From this came the idea of using Palestine Cinema Days to spread the Palestinian story around the world. We believe that in a world that is becoming increasingly violent, it’s important to promote the power of storytelling and to tell our story and our narrative—which itself faces a kind of war and denial,” Atallah further explains.

Predictably, organizing Palestine Cinema Days has been no easy task. Among the main problems cited by Atallah during our conversation were the lack of screen rights for some titles in certain countries (despite the goodwill of most distributors) and translations for the films. “Unfortunately, we had no budget for this event, and some screening venues did not get approvals to show Palestinian films. As a result, the gathering was not held under the theme of Palestine.

“However, thanks to the efforts of the crew, and in particular the dedicated Aflamuna team and our partner from Egypt, Seen Films, who spent days and nights to make this event a success, we were able to reach the widest possible audience. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the directors of the films and the distributors for their cooperation.”

In total, Palestine Cinema Days managed to play in 41 countries through 171 screenings. “We continue to receive messages from all around the world, showing support for our mission to share the Palestinian narrative through cinema,” Atallah says.

Finally, Atallah asked Projektor to publish the following text, which highlights the core mission of Palestine Cinema Days and a call for a free Palestine:

“Palestinian narratives, silenced since 1948, yearn to resound. Loud voices won’t deter us, manipulated news won’t sway us, and fake tears won’t shake us. We stand firm, we will not be intimidated, and we are not alone.

Make no mistake: genocide is not a conflict. Make no mistake: this is an occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Make no mistake: the battle today is a battle for the soul of humanity. 

Palestine Cinema Days, unable to grace its homeland this year, will instead illuminate screens worldwide, uniting with those who fight against oppression and colonialism.

We demand a world where Palestinians live with dignity and justice, not as potential victims. Our battle is for life, liberty, and justice, open to all. As with all colonized societies, the Palestinian struggle echoes a symphony of freedom and justice.

We sing together worldwide: ‘Decolonize and free Palestine now.’

We win together or lose together.”

Curated by humans, not algorithms.


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