Reviving Arab Cinema in Haifa and Jaffa

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Under the auspices of the Ramallah International Film Festival, screened at Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank town of Abu Dis. (Photo: AFP - Gali Tibbon)

By: Rasha Hilwi

Published Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Acre - A group of 15 young Palestinian filmmakers have launched an ambitious initiative to screen Arab movies in the cities of Haifa and Jaffa to counter the dwindling number of theaters showing Arab films.

The filmmakers named their organization Palestinema, symbolically combining their Palestinian identity with their passion for cinema.

The mission of the group is to give Palestinian audiences a chance to watch carefully chosen and decidedly non-commercial Arab films that are not easily accessible.

But it also strives to bring together young filmmakers to exchange ideas, advice, and even to work on new projects. The group will also prepare workshops that will promote film production in Palestine.

Films are shown once every two weeks in different theaters, including Masrah al-Maidan in Haifa and Masrah al-Saraya in Jaffa. Palestinema always tries to host the director of the movie being shown, either in person or via Skype.

Movies that have been shown include Moulok Wa Kombars (Kings and Extras) from Palestinian director and refugee from Haifa, Azza al-Hassan, and Khlikna Wa Alikna (Private Investigation) from Ula Tabari in Nazareth.

Hiya Fawda (This Is Chaos) from directors Youssef Chahine and Khaled Youssef has also been screened.

Youssef and al-Hassan both appeared over Skype while Tabari joined the audience in person.

"This symbolic initiative was launched to bring down the cultural barrier between Palestine and the rest of the Arab World," director Fares Khoury, one of the founders of Palestinema told Al-Akhbar.

He sees the screening of films in Haifa and Jaffa as an assertion of cultural Arab identity and Palestinian presence in these cities.

Director Riyad Shammas, one of the founders of Palestinema, points out that an Algerian director cannot travel to Haifa but could be present among a Palestinian audience through the internet, or through his or her art.

For now, Palestinema only screens films in Jaffa and Haifa. However, members of the organization promise not to rest until they have spread their activities across historical Palestine, including Nazareth, Acre, Umm al-Fahm, and Ramallah.

One member concluded that their goal is to prompt a cinematic revolution.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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