Sun Dec 14,2008

‘Pomegranates and Myrrh’ Goes Beyond The News to Explore the Lives of Palestinians Under Occupation

Najwa Najjar,  the director of the DIFF World Premiere Pomegranates and Myrrh,  today discussed her debut feature with the Middle Eastern press for the first time, calling it “a story through which people can enter the Palestinian reality to try to understand the lives of people living through the occupation.”

Pomegranates and Myrrh is the DIFF 2008 Arabian Nights Gala selection, and premiered last night to an audience of Arab Cinema’s most important names—the stuff of dreams for a first-time feature director.

Najjar says that her film, while staying away from the same sensational and bloody images as the world’s television cameras, is as much about the Palestinian cause as any other. She said: “Do we always have to present the story in such a way, using violence? By presenting and showing the lives of people literally trying to live under occupation each and every day, I think this is politics.”

The story revolves around a dancer, Kamar,  whose husband is imprisoned after defending her from an attack by a settler. In his absence, Kamar finds herself moved by another dancer, Kais, which gives her strength to face her circumstances.

The characters are simple and straightforward people who will not simply narrate what anyone can see on the news, but will present a humane story that viewers can relate to emotionally.  Pomegranates and Myrrh, according to Najjar, “conveys the reality of people living in difficult circumstances and searching for hope, which is the aim of everyone living that way.”

There were tremendous difficulties, and the financial resources were limited. The main objective for the production was to involve as many Palestinians as possible, which meant that they had to secure passes for colleagues coming from Lebanon,  Jordan, Gaza,  and even Paris.

However, the film was supported by well-known names: Hanan Ashrawi, Richard Gere, and Canadian producer Michael Danna (Surf’s Up, Monsoon Wedding) and Amritha Fernandes+Bakshi, among others.

Najjar stated that the film was part of a major step toward bringing a new industry to Palestine, consolidating a new generation of cinema technicians and artists. She said that she was ‘so lucky’ with her cast,  which includes Arab superstar Hiam Abbas—featured in three films at DIFF this year, Yasmine al Masri of last year’s hit Caramel, Ali Sliman, and Ashraf Farah.

The director concluded by saying that the film had been accepted to pivotal festivals such as Sundance, Rotterdam and Tribeca,  and that DIFF had been crucial to launching the film on a global scale.

Najjar closed the session by saying: “I’m tired of TV, I’m tired of slogans. We simply want to live. Period. It’s that simple.”

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