A Night of Film From the Palestine Diaspora: Ismail and Remember Us

CCA, 30th of March

On the commemoration of Land Day, 42 years after the 30th of March 1976 when Israel confiscated the land around Galilee that was the property of Palestinians and galvanised different groups in Palestine into one national movement of resistance, two films by emerging female filmmakers of the Palestinian diaspora are shown at the CCA. As organiser Hans Lucas notes in his introduction, there is a disconnect between the support for the Palestinian struggle by people in the West, and their support for the artistic and cultural voices of the Palestinians. A “soft colonialism”, he calls this, exemplified by the contrasting hundreds of people who would turn up to a demonstration in Glasgow and the half-full cinema in the CCA tonight. While there might be other things at play here – money, time – it is certainly important to support Palestinian artists who make a conscious effort to redress the narrative and show the conflict from a Palestinian perspective, as short film Ismail and feature-length documentary Remember Us are both doing.

The semi-realist Ismail follows one day in the life of Ismael, a man inspired by the Palestinian painter Ismail Shammout, during which two major events unfold. While set in 1948, after the Palestinians were either expelled or fled from their land and were forced to live in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab states, the film has a surreal and timeless quality to it. A colour scheme of white, beige, gold and brown prevails, with mesmerizing sunlight and sand blowing over the endless desert, providing a beautiful backdrop to the film’s tale of two brothers. Director Nora Alsharif aimed to show Ismael as a “product of civilized society”, part of an erudite and educated people, and his references to Michelangelo certainly succeed in doing this. Yet most of all, the film demonstrates the effect of the sudden presence of danger, the bond between people and the resilience of the Palestinians in a breath-taking manner.

The director of tonight’s feature-length documentary Remember Us was a runner on the set of Ismail, yet we can be glad she is calling the shots now, as her film is a visually original portrayal of a story of great importance. “It is time we help the world remember them” reads the end of the introduction, impliedly referencing the approximately 140,000 “Gaza Refugees” who have lived in Jordan since 1967 but, unlike the first wave of refugees in 1948, weren’t granted Jordanian citizenship. Thus, they are born refugees from a country they have never been. Director Dalia Abuzeid approaches this narrative in an engaging and inventive manner, alternating intense slow-motion and zooms with speeding up the movement or shooting from unusual angles. Regarding cinematics, Remember Us feels more like a fictional film than a documentary, but the five stories it portrays are unfortunately all taken from real life.

It is inevitable that screening Palestinian films comes with introducing or re-introducing the audience to key moments in the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Bits and pieces of this wider context are also given in the night’s introduction, in the films itself, and in the filmmakers own words. Audience members would be forgiven for leaving with a heavy heart from the details of this complicated and painful conflict, and a feeling of uselessness. However, tonight’s ticket sales are helping to raise funds for a media and cultural exchange project and documentary about marathon runners in Palestine and the UK, which is being shot and produced at this very moment. The project surrounds the question of the difference between training for a marathon in Bethlehem and in the UK as a way to explore the restrictions of freedom of movement in Palestine and other issues related to the Israeli occupation. “Freedom to Run”, a free event in which parts of the film will be shown and the Palestinian running group Right to Movement will be speaking is happening on the CCA on the 29th of May. Whatever one’s personal opinion on the conflict, educating yourself and supporting people directly involved in Palestine or Israel is of great importance, and what better way to do both than by watching their films?


[Aike Jansen]   

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