Dec 13,2011 - 06:52 PM
Cinema from the Occupied Territories riding high within broader Arab industry
BY ESRAA ABOUSHAHIN
This year, six Palestinian films are participating in the Dubai International Film Festival, reflecting a new, reinvigorated era of production for cinema from the region. Whether originating from Palestine or across the diaspora, the ability to tell compelling, and authentic stories has boosted Palestinian cinema’s presence onto the global scene.
Palestinian filmmaker and competitor in DIFF's Muhr Arab Documentary section with 'The Invisible Policeman', Laith Al-Juneidi believes Palestinian cinema is currently riding high within the broader Arab industry.
‘I think in terms of films and documentaries, Palestine has a bigger share than many other Arab countries,’ he says. ‘For example, I was at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam [IDFA] last month, and a Palestinian film [‘5 Broken Cameras’] won the special jury awards and People’s Choice awards.’
What Palestinians lack in governmental support for the film industry, they make up for in stories – which stem from their hardships. ‘Let's put it this way. Palestinian life is a drama,’ says Juneidi. ‘And filmmakers make these stories available. Another thing which I think is quite important is we don't have red tape and hopefully we never will.’
For many filmmakers, the Israeli occupation is the basis for many of their stories. But Sussan Yousef, director of ‘Habibi’ – competing in the DIFF Muhr Arab Feature segment - says she sees a sense of the auteur emerging in contemporary Palestinian films.
‘I feel like Palestinian cinema is evolving,’ she says. ‘When I go see a Palestinian film, I can never expect what it’s going to look like.’ She cites internationally acclaimed and award-winning Palestinian films such as ‘Paradise Now’ (2006), ‘Salt of This Sea’ (2008), ‘The Time That Remains’ (2009), or ‘Amreeka’ (2009), as examples of diversity in Palestinian film genres.
Juneidi says the occupation has in a way enriched Palestinian filmmakers. ‘Many Palestinians live in the diaspora and are learning filmmaking, and going back to Palestine with that punch for national identity,’ he says. ‘The industry relies on Palestinians going back to Palestine.’ Yousef says that this sense of identity has empowered Palestinian cinema. ‘I think there’s a movement,’ she says. ‘It’s become more independent, meaning filmmakers are finding ways to use local crew and local casts. And there’s a lot of risktaking in the different forms of film, which I think is really wonderful.’