Reel Palestine, an annual film festival celebrating all things Palestinian, will return to Dubai’s Cinema Akil from January 18 to 26 at Alserkal Avenue. More than 18 films will be screened across the nine days in what will be the festival’s biggest programme to date. There will be two screenings per day, talks and a market of Palestinian crafts and food.
The festival will open with ‘What Wala’a Wants’, about Wala’a, one of the few women in the Palestinian Security Forces. There’s also animated film ‘Wall’, which follows playwright David Hare on a trip to the Middle East to examine the impact the wall separating Israel and Palestine has had on the people of the region. A legal drama called ‘The Judge’, about Judge Kholoud Al Faqih, the first woman appointed to a Shari’a court in the Middle East, will also be screened.
Tickets are priced Dh52.5 and available online.
The full list of films is below:
Film: ‘What Wala’a Wants’ (January 18, 21, 23)
Director: Christy Garland
Genre: Docu drama
Raised in a refugee camp in the West Bank, while her mother was in an Israeli prison, Wala’a is determined to become one of the few women in the Palestinian Security Forces — not easy for a girl who breaks all the rules. Following Wala’a from 15-21, with an intimate POV, ‘What Wala’a Wants’ is the compelling story of a defiant young girl navigating formidable obstacles and disproving the negative predictions from her surroundings and the world at large.
Film: ‘Wall’ (January 18, 19, 25)
Director: Cam Christiansen
Genre: Animated documentary
Wall is a feature-length animated film written by and starring playwright and two-time Academy Award nominee for screenwriting (‘The Hours’, ‘The Reader’) David Hare, whom The Washington Postreferred to as “the premiere political dramatist writing in English.” Hare’s body of work spans 35 years and deftly explores socio-political issues at home and abroad. The 80-minute film follows Hare on a trip to the Middle East to examine the impact the wall separating Israel and Palestine has had on the people of the region.
Film: ‘The Tower’ (January 18, 19, 25)
Director: Mats Grorud
Wardi, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl, lives with her whole family in the refugee camp where she was born. Her beloved great-grandfather Sidi was one of the first people to settle in the camp after being chased from his home back in 1948. The day Sidi gives her the key to his old house back in Galilee, she fears he may have lost hope of someday going home. As she searches for Sidi’s lost hope around the camp, she will collect her family’s testimonies, from one generation to the next.
Film: ‘Naila and the Uprising’ (January 19, 22, 23)
Director: Julia Bacha
Genre: Animated Documentary
When a nation-wide uprising breaks out in 1987, a woman in Gaza must make a choice between love, family and freedom. Undaunted, she embraces all three, joining a clandestine network of women in a movement that forces the world to recognise the Palestinian right to self-determination for the first time.
‘Naila and the Uprising’ chronicles the remarkable journey of Naila Ayesh whose story weaves through the most vibrant, non-violent mobilisation in Palestinian history — the First Intifada in the late 1980s.
Film: ‘The Judge’ (January 19, 25)
Director: Erika Cohn
A verite legal drama about Judge Kholoud Al Faqih, the first woman appointed to a Shari’a court in the Middle East, whose career provides rare insights into both Islamic law and gendered justice. When she was a young lawyer, Al Faqih walked into the office of Palestine’s Chief Justice and announced she wanted to join the bench. He laughed at her. But just a few years later, Al Faqih became the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East’s Shari’a (Islamic law) courts. ‘The Judge’ offers a unique portrait of Judge Kholoud — her brave journey as a lawyer, her fight for justice for women, and her drop-in visits with clients, friends, and family.
Film: ‘Reel’ (January 20)
Director: Judy Price
In ‘Reel’ the disrupted residues of film have been selected — the lead-ins and endings of film with music composed by Johann Johannsson called ‘Kaene byr til engli’. The music brings to the images an intensity and spiritual dimension evoking the sensual and sublime that is found in the spaces disregarded by the more declarative ways of making sense of the world. The scuffing and scratching from handling film material; black cue dots, overexposing at the end of the reel, numbering or logging marks evokes all that is not seen in the documentation of history.
Film: ‘White Oil’ (January 20)
Director: Judy Price
‘White Oil’ unfolds narratives around colonialism, expropriation of land and mobility through the day-to-day lives of the quarry owners, workers and security guards. ‘White Oil’ engages with the interstices of a number of genres; photography, documentary, the cinematic, fiction and testimony, with ethnographic methodologies playing an important role.
There are more than 350 quarries in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank. The stone excavated has been termed the ‘white oil’ of Palestine and is the only raw material available to support the Palestinian economy and provides a livelihood for over 20,000 workers. However, of the stone and sand excavated from the quarries 65 per cent is expropriated by Israel for the construction of Israel, and to build the illegal settlements in the West Bank, with Israel also exporting the stone internationally and claiming it as their own product.
Film: ‘A Stone’s Throw From Prison’ (January 20, 24)
Director: Raquel Castells
Growing up in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is not easy. When you leave home for school, your mother can’t be sure of when you’ll be back. Maybe that night, maybe a year later. A stroll with your friends may end up in a police interrogation station. On any night, a group of soldiers may wake you up in the middle of the night and take you, your brother, your father... to prison, after blinding and handcuffing you in front of your family. You do not need to do anything special, just be there, be a kid. Rami, Ahmad, Mohammad... three among thousands. The film is their story, but also that of courageous Israelis and Palestinians working to cut abuses, stop conflict and heal its consequences.
Film: ‘Ambulance’ (January 21, 23)
Director: Mohammad Jabaly
‘Ambulance’ is a raw, first-person account of the War in July 2014. Mohammad Jabaly, a young man from Gaza City joins an ambulance crew as the war approaches. What is it like to live under constant threat? How can Jabaly find his place in a country under siege, where there seems to be no foreseeable future? We experience the war through Jabaly’s eyes, watching directly from the passenger’s seat, as he comes of age among dead bodies, terrified families, and the constant risk of sudden death.
Film: ‘Bonbone’ (January 22, 24)
Director: Rakan Mayasi
A Palestinian inmate serving time in an Israeli jail receives a visit from his wife who devises a bold and crafty operation to fulfil their secret desires.
Film: ‘Exit’ (January 22, 24)
Director: Mohanad Yaqubi
Taking the London Underground as its location, the piece traverses genres — appearing part site specific dance performance, part atmospheric architectural exploration and part video art. Featuring stunning cinematography and an award winning original score, Exit arrives at an accomplished fusion of the organic and the concrete by playing on the dancer’s bodily and emotional encounter with a claustrophobia underworld of stark lines and threatening machinery.
Film: ‘No Exit’ (January 22, 24)
Director: Mohanad Yaqubi
As many of his generation, Ali decided to run from the hardship of the war, in his way, he meets a strange person in a bus station, an encounter that will change his perspective of waiting.
Film: ‘The Crossing’ (January 22, 24)
Director: Ameen Nayfeh
Shady and his sister Maryam are very excited to visit their sick grandfather on the other side of the wall. Their elder brother Mohammad arrives in a hurry with the permit to cross. They arrive at the checkpoint, but having a permit sometimes is not enough to let them pass.
Film: ‘Breaking News’ (January 22, 24)
Director: Ismahane Lahmare
“What is Breaking News in a country where war and destruction are part of daily life?”
Film: ‘I Signed a Petition’ (January 22, 24)
Director: Mahdi Fleifel
Genre: Short Documentary
Immediately after a Palestinian man signs an online petition, he is thrown into a panic-inducing spiral of self-doubt. Over the course of a conversation with an understanding friend, he analyses, deconstructs and interprets the meaning of his choice to publicly support the cultural boycott of Israel.
Film: ‘The Man Who Stole Banksy’ (January 25, 26)
Director: Marco Proserpio
In 2007, Banksy slips into Palestine to paint on the West Bank Barrier. Someone takes offence at a piece depicting an Israeli soldier checking a donkey’s ID. A local taxi driver decides to cut it off and sell it on eBay. What follows is a story of clashing cultures, art, identity, theft and black market. It is not one story, but many. Like Banksy’s art would be meaningless without its context, so the absence of it would be meaningless without an understanding of the elements that brought his artwork from Bethlehem to a Western auction house, along with the wall it was painted on.
Film: ‘Salam’ (January 26)
Director: Claire Fowler
A female Lyft driver navigates the night shift in New York City while waiting to hear life-or-death news from her family in Syria.
Film: ‘194. Us, children of the camp’ (January 26)
Director: Samer Salameh
Genre: Feature documentary
The film follows the director’s journey as he is forced to join the Palestinian Liberation Army in Syria only a month before the start of the Syrian uprising. With the escalation of violence and the increasing attacks by the Syrian regime army on the camp, the director and his friends attempt to document the hopes, struggles, departures and loss they experience.
Film: ‘Memory of the Land’ (January 26)
Director: Samira Badran
Genre: Animation Short
A body is trapped at a checkpoint; an essential mechanism of the Israeli occupation. The body is pierced by structural and physical violence, which is aggressive and arbitrary and prevents and attacks its free movement and existence.
Film: ‘Screwdriver’ (January 26)
Director: Bassam Jarbawi
In 1992, Al Amari Refugee Camp in Palestine is a collection of cement cubicles, angles, colours, smells and sounds. It’s tight, but eight year olds Ziad and Ramzi find the space to explore. While playing around with old tools, Ziad accidentally cuts Ramzi. Ramzi stabs Ziad with a screwdriver. Immediately, they become best friends.