Knowing Palestine through cinema
It is important that a city rich in Mediterranean history such as Lecce opens an eye on an area of the “Mare Nostrum”, by now almost invisible, forgotten, often erased by the major television networks and the international press. Let’s talk about Palestine, at least about that area that after decades of military occupation is not yet a State. Inserting in this edition of the European Film Festival a retrospective on Palestinian cinema is first of all a cultural phenomenon, a sign of solidarity. But it is also a further recognition by a European Festival of the vitality and richness of the Palestinian cinema.
As it will be seen from the selected films, documentaries and short films, the Palestinian cinema is no longer only a militant cinema, but it enters, since the ‘80s, in a new phase by giving a more human, ordinary, and imaginative face to the society of the West Bank and Gaza, occupied by Israel in 1967 without, however, moving away from a dimension linked to the tragedy of Palestine. In those years, in fact, grow up a generation of Palestinian filmmakers formed during the exile period, the most important among them is undoubtedly, Michel Khleifi, who studied in Belgium. It is enough to recall his feature film Fertile Memory (1980) on the status of women in the Palestinian society, which was the first film shot entirely within the “Green Line” of the occupied territories. Wedding in Galilee (1987) by Khleifi, on the shameful living conditions under military occupation, was the first Palestinian film of internationally success (FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes) and thus opened up the possibility to European investments for the nascent cinematography.
Khleifi then observed: “We make a third kind of cinema, neither a Hollywood-style cinema nor art cinema in the sense of art for art’s sake, but a research, an aesthetic work on the image with a free narrative thread” – and produced independently.
On this wave are included, with internationally success, authors such as Rashid Masharawi in Haifa and Ticket to Jerusalem, Hani Abu Assad in Rana’s Wedding, Annemarie Jacir in Salt of this Sea and Elia Suleiman in Chronicle of a Disappearance and Divine Intervention.
During the ’90s appeared a new generation of filmmakers, born and raised in the occupied Palestine. Unlike the diaspora cinema, this generation often focuses on the individual person, on his psychological, social and cultural subjectivity – in the context of military occupation – but also develops critical observations in respect of the Palestinian society itself. Among the “second generation” directors, there are Tawfik Abu Wael, Nizar Hassan, Abdel Salam Shehade, Najwa Najjar, Alia Arasoughly, Azza el-Hassan and Sobhi al Zubaidi – to name but a few. In their films often reality and fiction, documentary and feature films are woven into a combination of poetic sensibility and rough analysis of the social and political reality.
Behind this, remains the courageous challenge against the violent and illegal occupation of the Palestinian land with the construction of the Wall and the dramatic living conditions in Gaza, that the new Palestinian cinema complaints, being aware of the importance of cinema as an element of peaceful and cultural resistance.