Palestine film fans in Toronto have a week packed full of new cinema to look forward to beginning Saturday when the annual Toronto Palestine Film Festival opens with Rashid Masharawi’s Palestine Stereo (2013).
Other feature films to be screened during the festival include Hany Abu-Assad’s Oscar-nominated Omar (2014) and Rani Massalha’s Giraffada (star Mohammad Bakri will be in attendance), as well as the documentaries The Village Under the Forest (2013), Cinema Palestine (2014), Just Play, Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine (2014), and Mais Darwazah’s meditative My Love Awaits Me by the Sea (2013).
There are several compelling short films included in this year’s festival as well.
Young filmmakers Yazan Khalili and Mahdi Fleifel revisit their fathers’ reactions to the now notorious peace agreement signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1990s in Leaving Oslo and 20 Handshakes for Peace, respectively.
The description of 20 Handshakes on the festival website reads:
In this experimental short, director Mahdi Fleifel reflects on the most historic handshake of modern time: “I remember the handshake very clearly. My dad recorded the ceremony on video and would play it over and over again. He could not believe what had happened. In fact, none of us could. One time he threw his shoe at the TV and shouted so loud, the next door neighbors complained about him. Listening to the last interview with Edward Said while watching the ceremony made me realize that my father’s anger was because chairman Arafat was the first one to reach out his hand.”
Fleifel has another short being screened which revisits the protagonist of his award-winning feature-length documentary A World Not Ours. The twelve-minute Xenos (2013) finds Abu Eyad, a Palestinian refugee who longs to escape a stagnant future in Lebanon’s Ein al-Hilweh camp, in Greece where he struggles to survive as a migrant.
And in another follow-up to a feature-length documentary screened at last year’s festival, Axel Salvatori-Sinz’s Dear Hassan (2014) pays tribute to Hassan Hassan, one of the youths profiled in The Shebabs of Yarmouk (2013) who was tortured and killed in a Syrian prison last year.
Also in dedication to another young life cut terribly short in Syria, the work of slain Toronto-based freelance journalist, activist and writer Ali Mustafa will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario from 29 September through 2 October as part of the festival.
For more information about the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, including the full schedule, visit tpff.ca.
Boston festival preview
Meanwhile, the Boston Palestine Film Festival, which runs from 17-26 October, has announced this year’s selection of works, which includes dramas May in the Summer (2013) by Cherien Dabis (Amreeka), Jessica Habie’s Mars at Sunrise (2013) and the aforementioned Giraffada and Omar, Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon’s new documentary A People Without a Land, and short works by acclaimed young artist Jumana Manna.
Multiple documentaries focused on Gaza are also to be featured, including Hadeel Assali’s haunting short Shuja’iyah: Land of the Brave, a response to this summer’s carnage, and Murat Gokmen’s short Sayadeen (Fishermen) (2012) and Abdallah Omeish’s The War Around Us (2012).
The festival will also include a program of nine short films by nine Palestinian filmmakers under the title Suspended Time which look back at the two decades following the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords.
Watch the trailer below for a sneak peek of this year’s festival.