For its eighth edition, the Ciné-Palestine festival will offer from May 26 to June 5 first (in Paris and Île-de-France), then from June 7 to 9 (in Marseille), a “focus [sur les] feminisms” through a fine selection of “short and feature films, documentaries and fiction, unpublished works and rare archives”. Stressing that “contrary to the international average where directors are more present, women directors occupy half of the Palestinian film scene”, the festival finally wanted to promote women filmmakers on an international scale. Produced between the 1970s and today, the films present the evolution of techniques, sensibilities and themes addressed in Palestinian cinema. In addition to recognized masterpieces such as Leila and the Wolves, directed by Heiny Srour, the first Arab female filmmaker to have directed a film selected at the Cannes Film Festival, or Hanna K by Costa-Gavras, the programming includes lesser-known works, of which here is a selection that deals with central themes around Palestinian history: struggle and hope. As I Want by Samaher Alqadi, 2021L he opening documentary of the festival presents painful scenes, sometimes difficult to sustain, although infused with moments filled with hope. The Palestinian director Samaher Alqadi holds a one-way discussion with her mother, where she tells her everything she would have liked to tell her during her lifetime concerning the fact of being a woman: “You always said that giving birth to a daughter gave rise to concern for life. Why is this the case? Why should I be ashamed of my body, why should I lower my voice, be ashamed of my laughter and keep it quiet?” Samaher Alqadi recounts the harassment and daily sexual assaults that she and all other women endure daily in Egypt, where she now lives. She films the streets, where men harass and attack her and where women of all generations explode their anger in demonstrations. She also shows interiors, where activists come together to tell their stories, their fears, their union and their determination. The filmmaker brilliantly mixes the intimate and the political – where questions related to sexuality and gender intersect. Pregnant and mother of a little boy at the time of the 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, 2019In her 2019 documentary short, director Mahasen Nasser Eddin tells the story of hundreds of women who, 90 years earlier, had come to Jerusalem from all over the country. They planned to demonstrate there against the British High Commissioner and his “policies serving the interests of the Zionist movement” (following the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in favor of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine). Prevented from demonstrating on foot, on pain of being beaten, they ended up protesting by car. With only a few photographs of the event, the filmmaker recounts the revolt and its preparations using long shots showing the road traveled by the demonstrators between the countryside and the capital. A voice-over takes the place of one of the women and narrates, 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 of some remain unknown to this day. Difficult to hear without shuddering the fictional voice of the past wondering what society it will leave to future generations.Moonscape by Mona Benyamin, 2020In a black and white short film, two male and female voices answer each other to narrate, in song, director Mona Benyamin’s quest to acquire a piece of Moon. The voices tell of the “Lunar embassy”, a company created in the 1980s (thanks to a legal loophole in a United Nations treaty) which sells lunar 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 – into perspective with the Palestinian reality: “A Palestinian from the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp with access to the Internet can more easily buy a hectare, or even twenty, on the Moon, than to return to her native land.” Based on this observation, the director, a Palestinian born in Haifa and with an Israeli passport, recounts her exchanges with the Lunar embassy team and highlights the difficulty, even the impossibility for the Palestinian people to have hope in their future.Beirut: Eye of the Storm by Mai Masri, 2021Celebrated Palestinian director Mai Masri followed four young Lebanese activists betweenthe Lebanese revolt against government corruption in October 2019 and the explosion of the port of Beirut, in August 2021, passing through the confinements due to the pandemic. The documentary feature listens to the stories and interrogations of Noel and Michelle, two sisters, authors of popular militant songs, Hanine, a young journalist with unfailing determination, and Lujain, an Iraqi camerawoman. hurt by the political situation of a country with which they have a love-hate relationship: “In all my dreams, I dream that I’m leaving but that I can’t,” says one of them. while another talks about the traumatic link that unites her to Lebanon. The film oscillates between intense scenes of jubilation, hope, demonstrations, and scenes showing the doubts of these activists with an uncertain future: no doubt paying the high price for our freedom but that’s what we have to do.”Tallahassee by Darine Hotait, 2021In this short fiction film, Darine Hotait deals with the taboo subject of mental health in many families, especially Arabs. It features the character of Mira, who goes to her grandmother’s birthday after a stay in a psychiatric hospital that her mother and sister are trying to cover up. Mira’s origins are not the main subject of the film but the screenwriters support the need to show on screen “an Arab family structure in order to fill a lack of representation”, reports the New Yorker: “These are things that have not often been seen in Arab cinema, especially given that our film deals with mental health within our culture”, explains Darine Hotait. The motif of a blue balloon that runs through the film represents a light at the end of the tunnel, a symbol of hope to hang on to life. The Ciné-Palestine festival will take place from May 26 to June 19 between Île-de-France and Marseille. You can also find the festival on Instagram.
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