Four years ago a group of cinema amateurs got together to find a way to showcase Palestinian films. The result was the Festival Ciné-Palestine, a film festival now in its fourth year which promotes both seasoned experts and the new generation of artists finding a foothold in the industry.
Held across three cinemas in the French capital two masterclasses allow attendees to discover, in depth, the work of directors Kamal Aljafari, a leading figure in experimental film, and Mai Masri, whose work focuses on Palestinians living in refugee camps.
Of the nine films Masri has directed over the course of her career, three will be screened as part of the festival including “Children of Shatila”, which follows two children living in Beirut’s Palestinian refugee camp where some 3,500 civilians were massacred by Lebanese Christian militiamen as Israeli forces sealed the camp in 1982.
The festival runs from 25 May-3 June which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe), the emptying and destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The displacement, collective trauma of exile and dispossession felt by this moment in history have become part of Palestinian history and identity, a theme that runs throughout the showcased films.
“Ma’loul Celebrates its Destruction” by the revered director Michel Kleifi highlights the oral tradition around the Nakba in which stories and memories of the Catastrophe are passed from generation to generation. Ma’loul is a village just west of Nazareth once inhabited mainly by Palestinian Christians who were forced to leave in 1948. Once a year they are allowed back to their hometown. During this visit they hold a picnic on the village remains.
Also on show is Tawfiq Saleh’s 1972 cult film “The Dupes” which follows three Palestinian refugees as they try to cross the Iraqi border into Kuwait hidden in a truck. “The Dupes” is one of the first Arab films to address the issue of Palestinian refugees.
Complete with an open-air film screening, a short film competition and two industry days in which professionals can network and initiate projects, the Festival Ciné-Palestine aims to counter the Israeli narrative which denies the Nakba, even though it is ongoing.
The Festival Ciné-Palestine will take place in the French capital Paris from 25 May-3 June.