“People who have been [to the West Bank and Gaza Strip] always say it’s very difficult … to speak about it” to others who haven’t been there, says French director Samir Abdallah, creator of the film Writers on the Borders: A Journey to Palestine(s). Abdallah adds that his film “brings some proposal to this question of how to speak about it and show what’s happening in Palestine and … [informs how to] not only be a storyteller but an actor, in an active position” in striving for justice for the Palestinians. EI’s Maureen Clare Murphy caught up with Abdallah who was in Chicago for the North American premier of Writers on the Borders. Read more about Interview: "Writers on the Borders" director Samir Abdallah
Art, Music & Culture
Rolling hills unmarred by the hands of man, the water of the Jordan river trickling along its way, olive trees rustling in the breeze — this is the land of the Galilee that Melkite priest Elias Chacour so loves, and this is the imagery he says Jesus enjoyed when he was living in what is now referred to as the Holy Land. To understand Chacour’s background is to understand his connection, and his family’s ties, to the land of the Galilee, and so it is appropriate that filmmaker Claude Roshem-Smith opens with beautiful scenes of Galilean pastoral greenery in his biographical film Elias Chacour: Prophet in His Own Country. Read more about Review: Elias Chacour: Prophet in His Own Country
The New York Arab-American Comedy Festival is seeking submissions from Arab-American artists for its 2nd annual Festival, which will take place in New York City from October 10 -13, 2004. The Festival will be divided into three parts: comedic theater, stand up comedy and comedic films. Last year was an overwhelming success, with the entire Festival playing to standing room only crowds. The Festival showcased a diverse group of Arab-American comedic plays, stand up comics and short comedic films, with the participation of over 40 Arab-American artists. Read more about New York Arab-American Comedy Festival seeking submissions
“Mafateeh,” or “keys,” is a word that holds symbolic meaning for Palestinians, and refugees in Rafah, Amman, and Jenin alike can show you the keys to their houses that they temporarily fled or were expelled from during the time leading up to and during the 1948 war. And like Ali Nimer Harami does in the film Keys, these refugees can show you well-preserved pieces of paper that prove their legal claim over land that is currently inhabited by Jewish Israelis in what is now Israel. Maureen Clare Murphy reviews the beautifully shot film for EI. Read more about Documentary film review: "Keys"
Both of the films A Stone’s Throw Away and The Children of Ibdaa investigate the thoughts and lives of a handful of children from the Deheisheh refugee camp, an impoverished refugee town on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Together, they illustrate that what drives Palestinians to commit violence, and how children need something to make their lives meaningful given the humiliation and lack of opportunity that come with living under Israeli military occupation. Read more about Review: "A Stone's Throw Away" and "The Children of Ibda'a"
A motion now before the Scottish parliament calls on the chamber to support a recently launched appeal for a global concert in defence of Palestinian human rights. Presented by Labour Party parliamentarian Pauline McNeill, the motion states that “a large international music concert would help bring the humanitarian crisis to the attention of young people throughout the world, building on the successes of the Concert for Bangladesh in 1972, Live Aid in 1985, Mandela Freedom Concert in 1988 and the Freedom for Tibet Concert in 1997.” Read more about Scottish parliament asked to support global Concert for Palestine
Capturing the fragments of a land shattered by politics, history, and colonialism, Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Israel-Palestine, clocks in at about four and a half hours. The film’s length is epic-worthy, but it allows the filmmakers to present oral history from a wide variety of people who live along the 1947 partition line, while at the same time allow for minutes-long footage of the monotonous grey concrete wall that quietly runs along one of the region’s main roads. By portraying both the divide of the physical landscape and that of the humans that inhabit it, viewers receive a fuller understanding of this conflicted part of the world. Read more about Review: "Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel"
“It’s a personal jihad for me, to have made it, to have gone through the process of making it,” says Muhammed Rum of his directorial debut Jihad!, the name of which comes from the Islamic spiritual concept of struggle of the will — the film’s central theme. Cinematographer Nara Garber, who took on many of the production roles because of the film’s limited budget, also considers the film to have been a personal journey, because it helped her more fully realize the hurdles Arab-Americans and Palestinians face in their respective situations. Read more about Interview: Jihad! filmmakers Muhammed Rum and Nara Garber
Based off of Jack Shaheen’s excellent anthology Reel Bad Arabs, which categorically catalogues depictions of Arabs in American film, Planet of the Arabs, while not without humor, reminds us that racist depictions of Arabs in American entertainment is a huge problem. And Arabs A Go-Go is Jacqueline Salloum’s modest attempt to contradict the racist tripe that Hollywood presents as Arab culture. Maureen Clare Murphy reviews the two short films, featured in the Chicago Palestine Film Fest, for EI. Read more about Film review: "Planet of the Arabs" and "Arabs A Go-Go"
Like every other aspect of Palestinian life, art and culture, though not destroyed, have been crushed under the heavy weight of the Israeli occupation’s tanks and curfews. The documentary films Writers on the Borders and Remembering Palestine feature international writers and artists who visit Palestine and find a shocking landscape of destruction. But, as the narrator Dominique Dubosc explains in Remembering, the question is not so much one of succeeding to restart art schools in the West Bank and Gaza, as being there to bear witness. Read more about Film review: Remembering Palestine and Writers on the Borders