Pre-Nakba, Haifa was the cultural capital of Palestine. Seven decades later a group of Palestinians are attempting to revive that title through an annual film festival which showcases the city’s deep-rooted Arab identity.
The festival is an attempt to connect with the Arab World, says director Rojeh Khleif – Palestinians who live inside Israel feel detached not only from Palestinians in the West Bank but also from the countries surrounding them.
“Some people don’t know about us, that we exist there, that there are Palestinians that live there fighting every day for our rights, fighting for our brothers and sisters on the other side, going to demonstrations, working hard to keep our identity because Israel is always trying to delete us,” says Khleif.
The festival maintains its independence from the Israeli government by screening films in Palestinian theatres or other venues which have been kitted out with a projector or a screen. It offers a space for directors from across the region to network at the workshops and masterclasses, and to show their work.
“They made the films inside Palestine, for Palestinians, but they had to show the film in Europe or other countries,” says Khleif. “But now finally we have a film festival for the people.”
“We built a bridge and the trust between the Arab countries.”