Upcoming film festivals showcase Palestinian creativity

Recent Electronic Intifada reviews of films such as When I Saw You, A World Not Ours and Though I Know The River Is Dry have affirmed the range of filmmaking talent currently focused on Palestine.

Cinema, with its wide appeal and ability to cross linguistic borders, seems to be one of the main art forms through which Palestinian creatives are openly discussing their history, politics, culture and identity.

And a series of film festivals in Europe and the United States is affirming that there is a real appetite for such work amongst audiences.

First up is Washington, DC, where the DC Palestinian Arts & Film Festival runs from 28 September to 5 October. Anticipated highlights include Fida Qishta’s Where Should the Birds Fly – a title which references one of Mahmoud Darwish’s most famous poems.

According to the festival organizers, it is “the first film about Gaza made by Palestinians living the reality of Israel’s siege and blockade of this tiny enclave. It is the story of two young women, survivors of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. Mona Samouni, now 12 years old and the filmmaker, Fida Qishta, now 27, represent the spirit and future of Palestinians.”

In Boston, the Boston Palestine Film Festival (18-27 October) opens with When I Saw You and over ten days screens more than thirty films, ranging from artistic shorts and tough documentaries to full-length dramatic features.

Highlights include the directorial debut of world-famous Palestinian actor Hiam Abbass, who has featured in Miral, Munich, The Lemon Tree, the Oscar-nominated Paradise Now and many other films. The storyline of Inheritance is described by the festival thus:

“A Palestinian family living in the north of Galilee gathers to celebrate the wedding of one of their daughters, as war rages between Israel and Lebanon. Internal conflicts explode; secrets are revealed, and lies are unmasked. The battles between different family members become as merciless as the outside war once their father falls into a coma and inches toward death.”

In Italy, meanwhile, the Sardinia Palestine Friendship Association is hosting the Al-Ard International Documentary Film Festival, focusing on Palestine but also featuring cinema from the wider Arab world (21-23 November). The festival will also feature a number of judged and public prizes for new and established documentary-makers.

Entries for the documentary prizes and non-competition screenings are open until 30 September, with information in Italian, Arabic and English on the website of the Associazione Amicizia Sardegna Palestina.

The organisers of Bristol Palestine Film Festival in the UK are keeping their schedule close to their chests for the moment, but movie-goers in the West of England will want to keep 6  December marked in their diaries.




Sheffield has hosted a Festival of Palestinian film for four years now and will host its fifth from 29 November to 1 December this year. Yorkshire Palestine Cultural Exchange has forged a strong partnership with the Showroom cinema to make this a firm fixture in Sheffield's cultural calendar.

More details about this year's festival and other YPCE activities see www.ypce.org.uk

Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.