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Attending the Palestinian Film Festival ‘24

A filmmaker can come from anywhere, even in a war-torn country such as Palestine.

I had the pleasure of attending the Palestinian Film Festival this year at Dendy Newtown, which showcased an array of Palestinian-made films. These films were motivated by experiences and tales from the storytellers’ past.

They reflect a country under siege, under stress, but not without hope. This was evident in the film Watched: A House in Jerusalem, directed by Muayad Alayan. The story follows a father and daughter who move to Jerusalem after the death of her mother. Initially, the film focuses on the daughter’s journey of grief in a strange land. However, she encounters the ghost of a Palestinian girl who was separated from her family at a young age. Through this cross-dimensional friendship, Rebecca (the daughter) embarks on a journey of discovery and self-healing, but also realises the terror the young spirit has gone through. 

I walked away with the realisation that a great filmmaker can come from anywhere, and that the heart of any great film lies close to the storyteller’s heart. A story that resonates deeply with the filmmaker’s own experiences often carries a raw authenticity that captivates audiences and sheds light on untold narratives.

In a land marked by conflict and displacement, the emergence of filmmakers like Muayad Alayan serves as an example of resilience and defiance. Despite the challenges posed by occupation and unrest, these artists remain resilient. They use film as a tool for resistance, amplifying the voices of those silenced.

But beyond the individual stories depicted on screen, Palestinian cinema as a whole serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of a people determined to reclaim their narrative. From the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes and lands, to the ongoing struggles today, the history of Palestine is one of pain but also resilience in the face of adversity.

It’s a true testament to see these Palestinian filmmakers challenge stereotypes and offer a glimpse into the reality of life under occupation. They remind us that behind the headlines and political discourse are ordinary individuals with dreams, aspirations, and a longing to live a life free from occupation. 

Reminding us of the power of storytelling to transcend borders and connect us on a fundamental human level. In a world too often defined by division and conflict, it’s a powerful reminder that there’s always hope for a better tomorrow.

Check out the Palestinian film festival, and dive into their world through cinema:

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