The trailer has been released for Open Bethlehem, a new film by Palestinian documentary-maker Leila Sansour which calls for an international response to the plight of her hometown.
Sansour, the daughter of one of the founders of Bethlehem University, left the city in her teens, finding it too “small and provincial” for her youthful dreams.
But when she returned in 2004, she found the city already threatened by the Israeli separation wall, and was quickly embroiled in a campaign to bring together people from around the world – from the Christian churches who focus on Bethlehem every Christmas to Palestine solidarity groups – to resist the encroachment of the wall and an iron ring of Israeli settlements.
The Open Bethlehem campaign has called for European Union sanctions on Israel and has commissioned polls in the United States and Britain which demonstrate widespread public ignorance about the situation in Palestine.
Director in discussion with Melvyn Bragg
The increasing impact of the wall on Bethlehem has been felt especially in the surrounding villages, such as al-Walaja, some of which have lost a large proportion of their agricultural land. Bethlehem’s neighboring town of Beit Jala has also seen homes and even part of the historic Salesian religious community there cut off by the wall.
After seven years of filming and campaigning, the Open Bethlehem feature-length movie is now being launched. A high-profile preview screening at the Royal Geographical Society in London on 24 September will feature Sansour in a question and answer session with Melvyn Bragg, one of Britain’s best-known art and culture commentators and a major TV personality.
This will be followed by what the organizers hope will be a wide-ranging cinema release over Christmas 2014 in the UK, in which Open Bethlehem will be billed as “the alternative Christmas movie.”
US audiences will have to wait until Christmas 2015 for a full-scale release.