Thursday, November 23, 2017

Days of Cinema celebrates Palestinian film while supporting up-and-coming local talent


By Rhiannon F. - October 19, 2017
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Section: [Main News] [Culture]
Tags: [cinema] [culture]

On entering the Ramallah Cultural Palace, both local Palestinians and internationals are dressed in modern, stylish outfits and suits, chatting excitedly as TV cameras film the proceedings.

The city’s film community has congregated for the opening of Days of Cinema film festival, which showcases 65 international and Palestinian films, including four Oscar nominees.

The festival runs between the 17th and 23rd of October and screens in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Gaza. Days of Cinema is now in its fourth year of bringing high quality fiction, documentary, short and children's films to Palestine.

The opening night premiered Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir’s film 'Wajib,’ one of the Oscar-nominated films. The packed out Ramallah Cultural Palace gave a standing ovation for her, the director and crew.

The film follows the story of Abu Shadi, a divorced father living in Nazareth. His son Shadi has been living in Rome for a number of years and has travelled home to help hand deliver wedding invitations for his sister, Amal. As the father and son share the day together, visiting guests of the wedding, tensions as new cultural differences present themselves.

Days of Cinema Spokesperson, Ms. Khulood Badawi was extremely pleased with the opening. “It was absolutely amazing. The audience was beyond expectation,” Badawi told Palestine Monitor.

The Cultural Palace holds around 700 people. “The room was full, there were no seats empty with many sitting on the aisle stairs and others [having to leave] because they couldn’t even stand to watch the film,” she said, indicating the success of the opening.

Badawi went on to say they had received endless phone calls from all over the West Bank and Nakba communities in Israel in the lead up to the event, trying to reserve tickets. “We stated non-stop there were no tickets and all shows were for free, though people still wanted to save seats to make sure they could attend.”

Audience member, Abdul Rahman, an accountant in Ramallah, enjoyed seeing 'Wajib.’ “It’s a very nice film, about families, our land, our story and how to love,” he said. Rahman went on to say how much he appreciates films, “because the cinema will make our conscious; through cinema we are aware of life and culture.”

     

Opening night at the Ramallah Cultural Palace, courtesy of Days of Cinema

Ramallah mayor Musa Hadid gave a speech at the Days of Cinema opening, stating the importance of film for Palestinians. “Cinema has also affected people on the international level. We remember when we were young, we learnt so many stories from these films, they created a reality we wanted to live,” stated.

He commended Days of Cinema for their work. “They are trying to paint the way so we can have access to cinema [and our own] fingerprint in this domain,” Mayor Hadid said in his speech. Mayor Hadid also touched on the importance of the municipality funding future infrastructure projects for cinema.

Badawi laments the increase in demolition of existing, historical cinemas throughout Palestine, such as Cinema Jenin. “It makes it hard to show alternative cinema and high quality films,” she said.

The film festival also programs screenings in Gaza, a difficult organisational process due to the “occupational reality,” as explained by Badawi. “It’s difficult to reach Gaza physically in order to provide the technical assistance and technology required to provide a high quality of screening,” Badawi said.

Not only this, there are barriers to actually providing the films. “There are no delivery services between Gaza and the West Bank, due to restrictions in accessing materials, so we were very challenged to provide these films.”

Badawi knows these obstacles are worth pushing through, as cinema is “an important tool when we talk in the context of people under occupation.” She sees it as a good obstacle to break the isolation Palestinians feel, by bringing the outside world to Palestine and increase knowledge about people in other nations and cultures.

“Cinema is a powerful instrument we can use in order to raise awareness internationally about our cause,” Badawi explained. “We can also use it to build alliances with nations with who we share common issues.”

Days of Cinema are also looking towards the future of film in Palestine. The first edition of Palestine Film Meetings is being held alongside the film festival this year in order to enhance networking opportunities for young filmmakers.

The Palestine Film Meetings will team Palestinian filmmakers with top industry professionals, giving them a chance to discuss career goals and their current projects.

Twenty three year old Actor, Mahmoud Abu Shamieh will be taking advantage of this platform throughout the festival. He is particularly interested in how to overcome obstacles such as financing. “We need money in order for quality cinema to grow [in Palestine]. Young people here don’t have access to good sponsors,” Shamieh told Palestine Monitor.

Shamieh and many young filmmakers alike hope to see cinema in Palestine expand in the future. “People here are not interested so much in Palestinian cinema, on TV or YouTube,” he explained the saturation of international film in the country.

He believes up and coming filmmakers need to keep pushing their films through media to gain exposure. “[We have] important things to say, such as the complex community and Arab, ideas as well as the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.”

 

'Wajid' director Annemarie Jacir, photo courtesy of Days of Cinema

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