This year’s festival concludes with five documentary programs on the domestic and professional lives of Arabs in Israel and the occupied territories, subjects seldom covered on our television news. All screenings are free and take place at Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor; for more information call 312-873-4401 or visit www.palestinefilmfest.com.
By far the most impressive entry is Claude Roshem-Smith’s Elias Chacour: Prophet in His Own Country (2003, 55 min., in French with subtitles), an inspiring portrait of the Melkite priest, author, educator, and social activist who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. Well-spoken and pragmatic, Chacour fully understands the injustices of history but refuses to be hobbled by the past. He’s also wily and hardheaded enough to have circumvented Israeli authorities and built a first-rate high school that successfully integrates Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Druze; more than all the summits, accords, and road maps combined, it may offer the best prospect for peace in a divided land. The video screens Saturday, June 26, at 7:30 PM, along with the American short Planet of the Arabs.
Line Halvorsen, a Norwegian who lives and works in the West Bank, directed A Stone’s Throw Away (2003, 51 min., in Arabic with subtitles), a sobering portrait of a group of teenage boys living in an overcrowded refugee camp in Bethlehem. Candid, articulate, and reckless, they taunt Israeli soldiers and pelt tanks with rocks as a way of honoring their ever-widening circle of fallen comrades. Halvorsen’s treatment of them is distinguished by its close-range observation and lack of romanticism, which underscore the teens’ painful self-awareness: they admit that their actions are futile but are still committed to the cycle of stoning, early martyrdom, and revenge. The video screens Friday, June 25, at 7:30 PM; also on the program is the eulogistic Palestinian short Rachel’s War.
Another double bill reflects the bewilderment and longing of those dispossessed by the founding of Israel in the 1940s. Freedom, I Have Lost (2000, 28 min., in Arabic with subtitles), by veteran Palestinian photojournalist Issa Friej, contemplates the formerly nomadic Bedouins who are now twice displaced, having lost their traditional grazing lands and also their economic raison d’etre; in today’s Arab world, wealth is measured in oil deposits, not herds of camels. And the Israeli-Palestinian coproduction Keys (2003, 60 min., in Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles), directed by Saleem Daw, follows several aged Palestinians as they cross Israel in search of their former homes, still carrying their house keys with them although their villages have all been razed, transformed into national parks, or settled by waves of Jewish immigrants. The two videos screen Sunday, June 27, at 2:30 PM. –Andrea Gronvall
Deluge/Siege/Children of Ibda’a (Saturday, June 26, 2:30)
Salt of the Earth (Sunday, June 27, 7:30)