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Palestinian Film Festival Opens in London


The third-annual Palestinian Film Festival is underway in London. For VOA Tendai Maphosa speaks to one of the participating directors who says even under extreme conditions, people get on with life.

The two-week festival features more than 40 films made by Palestinian directors, some of whom are based in Palestinian territories and others in the diaspora.

Najwa Najjar is based in Ramallah and her award winning short film Yasmine's Song was one of those screened on the opening night. She told VOA that there is a budding film industry, but film making is not easy for Palestinians.

"There is a lot of logistics that have to be done. For example Jericho was closed. It was a military area before we were about to shoot, so it made it very difficult for us to plan properly. We have some people who come from Israel proper, Palestinians who live there, people from the West Bank and people from Jerusalem," she said. "Each one has a different color of ID so they can go on some roads, they cannot go on other roads, and they can enter here and they cannot enter here. All of this and the security, we were shooting next to the wall soldiers can come at any time, they can stop you at any time, and we were threatened," added Najjar.

Money is also a major problem, Najjar said. She said for the government, faced with more pressing issues such as providing just the basics for the people, funding the film industry is not a priority.

She says funds from foreign donors, while welcome, mostly come with certain conditions. One of these is that the donor country will provide some production personnel. Najjar said while this is understandable, it impedes growth for the Palestinian film industry.

The films cover various themes, but Najjar agreed that they never stray too far from the political issues facing the Palestinians and the region in general. "Yasmine's Song" for instance is about two young lovers who, besides facing traditional hurdles in their relationship, came up against an extra, physical, barrier when a wall that divides Israel and the West Bank was constructed.

While the film industry in Israel is more developed, Najjar dismissed the option of any co-productions with Israeli filmmakers.

"Not at the moment. There is a cultural boycott. We cannot deal culturally as if everything is normal when politically nothing is normal," she said. "At the end cultural cooperation is not going to bring about the end of occupation, but the end of occupation can bring about cultural cooperation"

Politics may be in the way of speedier development of a Palestinian film industry, but the London Festival is a chance for filmmakers to show they can make good movies, even under less than ideal conditions.