A group of Palestinian students and graduates from the University of Warwick in England have transformed a story by one of Palestine’s most significant writers into a one-man play and short film.
Qarar Mujaz (A Brief Conclusion) originates as a short story written in 1958 by Ghassan Kanafani, the scholar, resistance activist and novelist who was assassinated in an Israeli car bomb in Lebanon in 1972.
The story — which is characterized by Kanafani’s skillful use of form, dry wit and unsparing honesty about the situation of the Palestinian people — tells of the philosophical conclusions reached by a young man during his brief life and his ultimate commitment to the principle of resistance.
“What triggered our interest in this story is that it stresses the importance of resistance as an act of self-determination, which is extremely relevant to the case of Palestinians in their attempt to resist the Zionist occupation of Palestine,” the production team explained in an email to The Electronic Intifada.
However, despite the focus of the story on the historic armed Palestinian movement, performer Fadi Al Naji and his colleagues see a message within the play which touches on contemporary ideas about the nature of resistance.
“It also shows that there are different forms of resistance, and each one of us should be allowed the freedom of choice to determine which form of resistance to adopt … the main character’s decision to be a freedom fighter and a philosopher establishes that these two different forms can exist simultaneously. However, his freedom to choose to become a fighter developed organically with the development of his free thinking,” Al Naji said.
Practical political art
In the hands of Al Naji, the story becomes a short play, a monologue addressed directly to the audience in the original Arabic, with English subtitles on the film version. In addition to his talents as an actor, the play also makes use of Al Naji’s abilities on the oud, an instrument he teaches in London.
Staged simply, A Brief Conclusion is not just a neat, elegant piece of artistic performance in its own right, but an illustration of how small groups of people can produce excellent political art with minimal resources.
As the production team of Fadi Al Naji, Nof Nasser Eddin and Nour Abu Assab told The Electronic Intifada, the story was adapted into a theatrical monologue for both “artistic and practical reasons.” Most of the play is delivered against a black curtain; the only props are a slightly 1970s-style costume which evokes the heyday of the Palestinian resistance.
This minimal staging highlights the fact that ambitious settings aren’t needed to do justice to Palestinian art. The simplicity of the environment allows the viewer to concentrate on the content of the play itself, with its moving narrative and sardonic humor.