Inspiring film is not necessarily something that comes to mind when thinking about Palestine. The Palestine that many people know is that of the images of conflict and discord regularly portrayed on the news. The Bristol Palestine Film Festival aims to open people’s eyes to Palestine and its people, to celebrate a hugely creative nation who, through the medium of film, wants to tell their story about living as a nation under occupation in innovative and creative ways.
The festival opened on Wednesday 3rd December with a screening of Cinema Palestine by Tim Schwab, at Bristol’s Cube Cinema. Attracting a broad demographic of viewers the film served as a fascinating precursor to the rest of the festival as it explored the lives and works of the Palestinian filmmakers behind many of the festivals films. The film is based on interviews’ with Palestinian filmmakers, living in the Middle East as well as Europe and North America and provides an insight into the motivation behind many of the film makers’ ideas and why film has become such an important tool of communication for them. What struck me most when watching the interviews, intercut with sections of the various directors films, was that this growing film industry has so much more to tell the world than of the battered images of Palestine that we have all come to know and that many of these films explore love, passion, dark humour and fun. The film is a real eye opener to the situation that many Palestinians have found themselves in and their bid to tell their story through the medium of film.
After the festival saw a jam packed schedule of events at The Watershed over the weekend, I attended the screening of Salt of this Sea by Annemarie Jacir, the first Palestinian feature film by a female director. Salt of this Sea tells a very powerful story about the journey of a woman on a quest to find out more about her own personal Palestine and to reclaim what is rightfully hers. The story follows Soraya, a woman born and raised in Brooklyn, New York whose family roots lie in Palestine. We follow Soraya as she makes her first ever journey ‘home’ to Palestine in a bid to discover more about the struggle of her family and the homeland that they were forced to leave behind. Salt of this Sea is a great example and an important demonstration that it is not only the Palestinians living under occupation who are facing a struggle and that those who are born in exile, having never before set foot in Palestine, also have an important story to tell.
Writer and director Annemarie Jacir joined the audience via Skype after the screening to provide a deeper insight into her motivation and the creation of the film and to answer audience questions. This was a really valuable element of the event and her presence stirred a lot of audience participation and feedback. It was fascinating to hear Annemarie talk about how the film came together and the struggles they had filming in real locations and it became clear that the story meant a huge amount to the entire film crew.
For more information about locations and tickets please visit www.bristolpff.org.uk. If you don’t get the chance to participate this month then never fear, the festival returns for its second half in March 2015.
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