Sometime in September, I spontaneously decided to visit an art warehouse after dropping my siblings off to school. I was surprised but filled with so much warmth when I stumbled upon an art installation that focused on Palestine. I walked into the warehouse to directly face a canvas that stretched from one side of the room to the other. The Revolution was the Beginning masterpiece by Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour depicts every event since the 1948 Nakba — a time when 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes due to Zionism. As breathtaking as the painting was, I sat down on the ground for a while to take in the reality that is the story of Palestine. I thought of how rare it was to see art, in any form, anywhere in the world, that depicted either a Palestinian story or simply even a Palestinian artist. I thought of the yearning that I felt to be represented for who I am. I thought of the need for my people to be represented in art and media for more than just the dreadful events that have occurred to them beyond their control.
In Revolution was the Beginning, the continued Palestinian resistance is pictured along with the ‘Great Return March’ that began legally from the 30th of March 2018 and has been repeated every Friday since. The march peacefully emphasizes the Palestinian right to return to their land as has been declared by the United Nations. Furthermore, significant details are boldly added to represent Palestinian culture such as, the olives grown in Palestine, the great Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the home keys held and passed through generations in anticipation of return. It is rare to see Palestinian art, so I was touched by the small details that represented my culture, my home, and my identity.
I want to book a cinema ticket to see a Palestinian movie with a full Palestinian cast, just as I did with Black Panther.
Deep down, I want to celebrate the presence of Palestine and of Palestinians in the media. I want to book a cinema ticket to see a Palestinian movie with a full Palestinian cast, just as I did with Black Panther. I want to sit alone in the corner of a theatre in a foreign country and admire the Palestinian culture, just as I did when I moved to London and saw The Farewell’s portrayal of Chinese culture.
I recalled feeling sad last year about missing out on the 2019 London Palestine Film Festival when planning this article. Luckily, it turned out that this year’s festival still went ahead but with the opportunity to purchase and view the films online. Therefore, I am over the moon to present to you just a few reviews of the films I was fortunate enough to view. Each one sparked joy in me to see Palestinians thriving in spaces in which they continue to resist discrimination despite the violence they continuously face. Each one filled me with hope for a brighter future with the presence and celebration of Palestinian voices and culture.
Note: The following reviews contain spoiler
Ibrahim: A Fate to Define by Lina Al Abed
Through a captivating personal documentary, a Palestinian director goes hunting for closure over the disappearance of her father, Ibrahim. This emotional and nail-biting journey takes place all over the world, following the displacement and scattering of Al Abed’s Palestinian family and friends. With the knowledge of Ibrahim’s secret involvement — out of love to see a liberated Palestine — with a Palestinian militant organisation, hearts were broken and many were left with unanswered questions. Whether those questions were directed at searching for a sense of identity or questioning how one could love Palestine so deeply as to die for it, Al Abed ensures to highlight the pattern of persistence that is evident in every Palestinian person who is interviewed throughout the documentary.
Maradona’s Legs by Firas Khoury
Innocence and playfulness is depicted like in any other childhood story in this feel-good 23-minute short film. During the 1990 World Cup, two brothers set out on a mission to collect a sticker of Maradona’s legs. It’s the final sticker needed to win the video game console, Atari 2600. Although there are subtle hints of a war-torn country, the journey is lighthearted and sprightly with scenes of children playing in the streets. After collecting as much as is needed to travel to Nazareth and back, the brothers meet up with a child known to have Maradona’s legs. Unfortunately, with Brazil’s loss in the World Cup, the boy refuses to provide stickers as a result of a loss of spirit. That is until the eldest of the brothers furiously rants about the child’s betrayal to the football team. Powerful lines such as, “men stay loyal in victory and in defeat” (timestamp 16:58), and “real fans are to the grave. Where’s your shirt? You took it off as soon as we lost?” (timestamp 17:20) can be picked up as a double entendre to the Palestinian resistance against giving up. Therefore, through ups or downs, the brothers portray faithfulness to things worth fighting for. This is surprisingly observed with the brothers ending the film by giving up on the Atari, and rather hanging on to the very first completed sticker book in Palestine.
Gaza Mon Amour by Tarzan Nasser and Arab Nasser
The world rarely identifies Palestinians with anything other than the Israel-Palestinian war. That is what makes the Nasser brothers’ film so special. The exploration of love between elderly souls warms and comforts the heart. Even though both fisherman, Issa, and dressmaker, Siham, are hard-headed and reserved individuals, audiences learn that they are secretly hopeless romantics. Despite a dull life with power outages, Israeli-enforced checkpoints and living in poverty, Issa dances to the many cassettes he has got whilst he cooks. All the while, Siham is enchanted by a romantic drama film she continues to play on repeat since seeing it with her late husband. Together, by the end of the film, Issa and Siham find and lose themselves in love with one another. You’re bound to smile from cheek to cheek with this endearing film, even with its dark comedy and grim colours.
Between Heaven and Earth by Najwa Najjar
In an attempt to get a divorce, the Palestinian married couple Tamer and Salma stumble upon a secret. The mismatched address of Tamer’s father’s house led to the knowledge that he was married to an Iraqi Jewish woman and had a son, named Timr. With the haunting line, “…to proceed, you’ll have to prove who you are” (timestamp 00:12:08), a trip is made all around the country in hopes of finding his alleged step-mother. Simultaneously, through flashbacks of horrific childhood memories and intense procedures to get through Israeli authorities, Tamer and Salma’s relationship unravel on the road to reveal hidden wounds inflicted by one another throughout their 5-year marriage. Najwa has written and directed yet another absorbing and soul-stirring film, sure to go down in history books.