For its eighth edition, the Ciné-Palestine Festival offers from 26 May to 5 June first (in Paris and Île-de-France), then from 7 to 9 June (in Marseille), a “focus [sur les] feminism “ through a fine selection of “short films and feature films, documentaries and fiction, unpublished works and rare archives”.
Emphasizes it “Contrary to the international average, where directors are more present, female directors occupy half of the Palestinian film scene”the festival would finally promote female filmmakers internationally.
The films were made between the 1970s and today and present the development of techniques, sensitivities and themes addressed in Palestinian film.
In addition to recognized masterpieces such as Leila and the wolvesdirected by Heiny Srour, the first Arab female filmmaker to direct a film selected at the Cannes Film Festival, or Hanna K by Costa-Gavras, the program includes lesser-known works, of which here is a selection dealing with key themes around Palestinian history: struggle and hope.
As I want by Samaher Alqadi, 2021
The festival’s opening documentary offers painful, sometimes unbearable scenes, albeit filled with moments of hope. Palestinian director Samaher Alqadi holds a one-sided discussion with her mother, in which she tells her everything she would have liked to have told her in her lifetime about being a woman:
“You always said that giving birth to a girl gave anxiety for life. Why is that? Why should I be ashamed of my body, why should I lower my voice, be ashamed of my laughter and shut his mouth?”
Samaher Alqadi talks about the daily harassment and sexual abuse that she and all other women experience daily in Egypt, where she now lives. She films the streets, where men harass and assault her, and where women of all generations vent their anger in protests.
It also shows interiors where activists meet to share their stories, their fears, their union and their determination. The filmmaker excellently mixes the intimate and the political – where issues related to sexuality and gender intersect. Pregnant and mother of a little boy at the time of production, the filmmaker wonders how she will raise her own children while confronting different generations and their visions.
The silent protest by Mahasen Nasser Eddin, 2019
In his documentary from 2019, director Mahasen Nasser Eddin tells the story of hundreds of women who had come to Jerusalem from all over the country 90 years earlier. They planned to demonstrate there against the British High Commissioner and his “policies that serve the interests of the Zionist movement” (after the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in favor of one “national home of the Jewish people” in Palestine). Prevented from demonstrating on foot, in pain of being beaten, they ended up protesting in the car.
With only a few pictures of the event, the filmmaker tells about the uprising and its preparations using long pictures that show the demonstrators’ route between the landscape and the capital. A voiceover takes the place of one of the women and tells, in the present, the year 1929 and “the story that will unfold in the future”.
In twenty minutes, the filmmaker highlights the strength of these women, many of whom died as martyrs and whose identities to some are unknown to this day. It’s hard to hear the fictional voice of the past without a shudder wondering what society it will leave for future generations.
Moon landscape by Mona Benjamin, 2020
In a black-and-white short film, two male and female voices react to each other in song to tell director Mona Benjamin’s quest to acquire a piece of the Moon. The voices tell of the “Moon Embassy”, a company set up in the 1980s (thanks to a legal loophole in a UN treaty), which sells moon land in the form of “galactic passports”.
The crazy story takes a dramatic turn when the female voice puts this lunar possibility – in every sense of the word – in perspective with Palestinian reality:
“A Palestinian from the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp with internet access can more easily buy an acre, or even twenty, on the moon than return to his homeland.”
Based on this observation, the director, a Palestinian born in Haifa and with an Israeli passport, recounts his exchanges with the Lunar embassy team and highlights the difficulty, even the impossibility, of the Palestinian people having hope for his future.
Beirut: The eye of the storm by Mai Masri, 2021
Recognized Palestinian director Mai Masri followed four young Lebanese activists from the beginning of the Lebanese uprising against government corruption in October 2019 to the explosion of the port of Beirut in August 2021, which passed through the detentions due to the pandemic.
The documentary listens to the stories and questions of Noel and Michelle, two sisters who wrote popular militant songs, Hanine, a young journalist with unfailing determination, and Lujain, an Iraqi camerawoman.
The quartet tells of their generation, born under the shadow of the civil war and carrying on an enormous hope, so often undermined by the political situation in a country with which they have a hate-love relationship: “In all my dreams I dream that I go, but that I do not succeed does not”, entrusts one of them while another talks about the traumatic connection that unites her with Lebanon.
The film oscillates between intense scenes of cheers, hopes, demonstrations and scenes that show the doubts of these activists with an uncertain future: “We’ll probably pay a high price for our freedom, but that’s what we have to do.”
Tallahassee by Darine Hotait, 2021
In this short fiction film, Darine Hotait deals with the taboo subject of mental health in many families, especially Arabs. It has the character of Mira, who goes to her grandmother’s birthday party after a stay in a psychiatric hospital, which her mother and sister try to cover up.
Mira’s origins are not the main theme of the film, but the authors support the need to show it on screen “an Arab family structure to fill a lack of representation”reports New Yorker : “These are things you have not seen so often in Arabic cinema, especially since our film deals with mental health in our culture”explains Darine Hotait.
The pattern of a blue balloon traveling through the film represents a light at the end of the tunnel, a symbol of hope to hold on to life.
The Ciné-Palestine Festival takes place from 26 May to 19 June between Île-de-France and Marseille. You can also find the festival on Instagram.