New Palestine cinema comes to Malaysia, Canada and US

The third Kuala Lumpur Palestine Film Festival launched this weekend, featuring Hany Abu-Assad’s Oscar-nominated thriller Omar (2013), the Palestine-set drama Inch’Allah (2013), Mahdi Fleifel’s acclaimed documentary A World Not Ours (2012) and Yasmine Perni’s documentary The Stones Cry Out (2013), which highlights the voices of Palestinian Christians.

The film screenings are complemented by an exhibition of the work of Algerian-Belgian photographer Seba Asmaa El Mourabiti, whose series Une Vie Suspendue comprises 24 portraits of Palestinian women who were imprisoned by Israel.

The festival, organized by Viva Palestina Malaysia, also features a cooking demonstration by Laila El-Haddad, co-author of The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey, and the launch of the new book Remember Us, a compilation of writing by young Palestinians, with the participation of contributor Sameeha Elwan.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, a Gaza Film Festival was held at New York University this weekend, featuring Tears of Gaza (2010), Flying Paper (2013), Strawberry Fields (2006), Gaza: Another Kind of Tears (2006) and Where Should the Birds Fly (2012).

Palestine at Toronto International Film Festival

And north of the US border, three Palestinian films are being featured at the Toronto International Film Festival, which opened on 4 September.

Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan’s The Wanted 18 makes its world premiere at the Toronto festival on Friday (watch the trailer at the top of this page). The following description of the film is from the festival website:

Through stop-motion animation, drawings and interviews, directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan recreate an astonishing true story from the First Palestinian Intifada: the Israeli army’s pursuit of eighteen cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm was declared “a threat to the national security of the state of Israel.”

Also featured in Toronto is the debut feature Villa Touma by Suha Arraf, which makes its North American debut after it was featured at the Venice Film Festival, but not without eliciting the scorn of Israel’s culture ministry. The ministry excoriated Arraf for initially registering the film as Palestinian although it was financed with Israeli public funds. Arraf, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has asserted her right to public funding as well as her national identity.

Arraf ultimately dropped “Palestine” from the film’s description and it was presented in her name only. She commented in the Israeli daily Haaretz: “Yes, the film is listed as stateless, a ‘refugee,’ as best reflects my complex status in this country – a Palestinian with a national identity and citizenship that are neither pertinent nor desired.”

The Toronto International Film Festival has this synopsis of Arraf’s Villa Touma (watch the trailer above):

Three unmarried aristocratic Christian sisters from Ramallah have shut themselves in their villa clinging desperately to their former glory, until their orphan niece, Badia, walks into their lives and turns their world upside down. The sisters see it as their mission to marry her to an eligible Christian man.

Also featured at the Toronto International Festival is Basma Alsharif’s short performance film Deep Sleep (watch the trailer below):

Palestine film fans in the US South have the Atlanta Palestine Film Festival to look forward to this month. The festival opens on 11 September with Omar and runs through 21 September and includes screenings of the Gaza documentary The War Around Us (2012) and Annemarie Jacir’s latest feature When I Saw You (2012), among others.

And the Boston Palestine Film Festival kicks off its season on 11 September with a co-presentation of Iraqi-Palestinian-American director Usama Alshaibi’s 2013 documentary American Arab (see trailer below). The annual Boston festival runs this year from 17-26 October.

Author’s note: since this post was first published, the artist Asmaa Seba El Mouribiti emailed The Electronic Intifada with the correct name of her exhibition, which was given in an earlier version of this post as Suspended Lives. It has since been corrected.

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A question, not a comment. Will any of the above films be coming to Chicago?

Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.