Reel Palestine, a festival celebrating Palestinian cinema and culture, will return for its fifth edition this year at Cinema Akil from January 18-26. In addition to multiple film screenings across nine days, a vibrant Palestinian market will offer everything from crafts and traditional embroidery, to souvenirs and jarred foods. Plus, there’s an exhibition titled YaHala Studio where visitors can view rare Palestinian memorabilia collected over the years. Not sure where to start? Here are films you don’t want to miss.
What Wala’a Wants (2018) – Documentary – 89 min
Jan 18 (7pm) | Jan 21 (9.30pm) | Jan 23 (7.30pm)
Director: Christy Garland
Wala’a, raised in a West Bank refugee camp while her mother is in an Israeli prison, wants to join the Palestinian Security Forces. The film follows Wala’a aged 15 to 21. Q&A with executive producer to follow on opening night.
Wall (2017) – Animated Documentary – 82 min
Jan 18 (9pm) | Jan 19 (5pm) | Jan 25 (9pm)
Director: Cam Christiansen
Two-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter David Hare (‘The Hours’, ‘The Reader’) writes and stars in this animated film, which examines the reality of the wall separating Israel and Palestine.
The Tower (2018) – Animation – 80 min
Jan 19 (3pm) | Jan 25 (5pm)
Director: Mats Grorud
Eleven-year-old Wardi lives in the refugee camp where she was born. Sidi, her great-grandfather, was an early resident of the camp after fleeing his home in 1948. Sidi gives Wardi the key to his old Galilee house, and she worries he’s lost hope of going back.
Naila and the Uprising (2017) – Animated Documentary – 76 min
Jan 19 (7pm) | Jan 22 (9.30pm) | Jan 23 (7pm — this final screening will be at Warehouse 421, Abu Dhabi)
Director: Julia Bacha
‘Naila and the Uprising’ chronicles the journey of Naila Ayesh after a nation-wide uprising breaks out in 1987. Naila moves in and out of Israeli prisons, distributing illegal leaflets by night and planning boycotts with her infant son strapped to her back.
The Judge (2017) – Documentary – 81 min
Jan 19 (8.30pm) | Jan 25 (3pm)
Director: Erika Cohn
Judge Kholoud Al Faqih was laughed out of the chief justice’s office when she announced her desire to join the bench. Now, she’s the first woman to be appointed to a Shari’a court in the Middle East.
White Oil (2014) – Documentary – 65 min
Jan 20 (7.30pm)
Director: Judy Price
London-based filmmaker Judy Price looks into white oil, a raw resource that supports the Palestinian economy, and how it is expropriated for construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank, and claimed as an Israeli product during exports.
A Stone’s Throw From Prison (2016) – Documentary – 65 min
Jan 20 (9.30pm) | Jan 24 (7.30pm)
Director: Raquel Castells
Rami, Ahmad and Mohammad are three out of thousands of children growing up in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where they can be imprisoned and interrogated unexpectedly at any moment.
Ambulance (2016) – Documentary – 80 min
Jan 21 (7.30pm) | Jan 23 (9.30pm)
Director: Mohammed Jabaly
A first-person account of the war in July 2014, told through the eyes of Gazan filmmaker Mohammad Jabaly, who joins an ambulance crew at a dangerous time.
Series of shorts
Jan 22 (7.30pm) | Jan 24 (9.30pm)
A collection of shorts — ‘Bonbone’, ‘Exit’, ‘No Exit’, ‘The Crossing’, ‘Breaking News’ and ‘I Signed a Petition’ — exploring the Palestinian experience.
The Man Who Stole Banksy (2018) – Documentary – 90 min
Jan 25 (7pm) | Jan 26 (5pm)
Director: Marco Proserpio
Banksy makes a clandestine visit to Palestine in 2007, where one of his paintings provokes fury: a mural of an Israeli soldier checking a donkey’s ID. Local taxi driver Walid, with the support of the community, decides to cut it out of the wall and auction it off on eBay.
194. Us, children of the camp (2017) – Documentary – 85 min
Jan 26 (3pm)
Director: Samer Salameh
Filmmaker Samer Salameh is forced to join the Palestinian Liberation Army in Syria a month before the Syrian uprising.
Screwdriver (2017) – Feature – 108 min
Jan 26 (8pm) (This free screening will be at The Yard, Al Serkal Avenue)
Director: Bassam Jarbawi
Eight-year-old residents of Al Amari Refugee camp, Ziad and Ramzi, become best friends after Ramzi stabs Ziad with a screwdriver. Later, the teens become stars of Al Amari basketball team when tragedy strikes, upending many lives.
* Screenings are ticketed at Dh52.50 (available online and at the Cinema Akil box office). They take place at Cinema Akil, unless otherwise stated. Timings are subject to change. Full information on shorts screening can be at Reel Palestine’s website.