Palestine film festivals to open in Chicago and London, plus other cinema news

Annual Palestine film festivals are on their way in both Chicago and London, both of which boast two weeks of programming related to Palestine cinema.

The Chicago festival — the longest consecutive-running Palestine film festival, now in its 12th year — opens tomorrow night with Annemarie Jacir’s acclaimed feature When I Saw You (see the above trailer) plus a short by Larissa Sansour. Tomorrow’s screening will be followed by a discussion of the film with Jacir, making it an event not to be missed.

When I Saw You, Jacir’s second feature film, is reaping awards on the festival circuit, including Netpac award for Best Asian Film at the Berlin International Film Festival, Best Arab Film at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the Jury Prize at the Oran and Cairo Film Festivals, and the Don Quixote Award at the Carthage Film Festival. (For more about the film, visit its Facebook page and website.)

The Chicago festival also includes the Chicago premiere of Susan Youssef’s award-winning feature Habibi, the first feature film set in Gaza in more than a decade. A more unexpected festival selection is Lacan PalestineBill Stamets describes it in the Chicago Sun-Times: “Canadian experimental filmmaker Mike Hoolboom composes a psychoanalytic take on Palestinian identity, slavery, liberty and ‘singularity’ ” (see the trailer below).

Several acclaimed documentaries are also featured in this year’s Chicago festival, including the Academy Award-nominated 5 Broken Cameras, an intimate look at Palestine’s grassroots resistance movement, and The War Around Us, which profiles two journalists, Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherin Tadros, who tirelessly and fearlessly reported from Gaza during Israel’s horrendous three-week bombing campaign in winter 2008-09.

For more information on the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, running 20 April - 2 May, visit

London festival 3-15 May

While the Chicago Palestine Film Festival selections are all films released in the past couple years, the London festival distinguishes itself by featuring rarely screened older works like David Koff’s 1981 documentary Occupied Palestine. The newly digitized film opens the London festival, with Koff in attendance, along with Elia Suleiman’s debut short Homage by Assassination (1991).

A press release sent to The Electronic Intifada describes some of the other festival selections:

There’s much fresh work on offer too, with more than 20 premieres. Sharp new docs include Apples of the Golan, a topical Irish portrait of life in the Syrian Golan heights, and White Oil, an eye-opening study of the vast quarrying industries operating in the West Bank. Also of note is Flying Paper, in which a Nitin Sawhney soundtrack meets soaring cinematography to tell of a spectacular kite-flying record attempt in the Gaza Strip. Other new docs tackle subjects ranging from Palestine’s first radio station (Jerusalem Calling) to the life of workers in the Gaza tunnels (Gaza: Tunnels to Nowhere) and heated divestment campaigns on US campuses (Pressure Points).

Quality shorts and animations run across the programme, foregrounding some of the most innovative voices in international and Palestinian filmmaking. Iranian short Tunnel features virtuoso dirt animation; Waiting for P.O. Box is a Syrian satire full of magic-realist wit and elegant imagery; and smart storytelling renders Though I Know The River is Dry an engaging emotional drama. Bold experimental work comes from Basma Alsharif (Home Movies Gaza), Eric Baudelaire (The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images), and Jumana Manna (A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch’s Last Masquerade)).

Past audiences will know to expect some surprising festival inclusions. In its “Beyond Palestine” strand, the 2013 festival revisits Jorge Sanjinés revolutionary classic Blood of the Condor (Bolivia, 1969). The more recent radical work, Testimony, is equally sure to challenge. This provocative experiment sees Israeli actors perform verbatim statements from Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers recalling harrowing violence. Less sombre surprises are in store with the comedic road movie (No) Laughing Matter, a rollicking documentary ride through Palestinian humour in the West Bank, introduced by comedian Jeremy Hardy.

The London festival also will host a one-day conference bringing scholars from around the world to discuss “Palestine and the Moving Image,” convened in association with the Centre for Palestine Studies at SOAS, University of London.

For more information about the London Palestine Film Festival, visit and check out the trailer below:

New Hany Abu-Assad film

Omar, a new feature from Hany Abu-Assad, director of Paradise Now, is an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, it was announced this week. According to The Hollywood Reporter:

The drama, the story of three childhood friends and a young woman who are torn apart in their fight for freedom, is billed as the first fully-financed film to come out of the Palestinian cinema industry.
Omar stars Waleed Zuaiter, who has appeared on Showtime Emmy-winning series Homeland, alongside Adam Bakri, Samer Bisharat, Eyad Hourani and Leem Lubany.

Zuaiter also produced together with David Gerson through the newly-formed Palestinian-American production company ZBros with financing coming from Palestinian investors and through the local Enjaaz Film Initiative.

Forthcoming documentary challenges conventional wisdom

The creators of the forthcoming feature-length documentary A People Without a Land (disclaimer: the director and producer are good friends of this author) have released a new trailer for their film, which aims to challenge conventional wisdom on Israel and the Palestinians and the peace process towards two-state solution.

The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah is featured in the film, along with contributors Ilan Pappe, Ghada Karmi and Omar Barghouti.

Read my interview with director Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon in which he describes his journey from a religious Zionist background to becoming an advocate for Palestinian rights, and watch the trailer below:



Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.