Unique Palestinian film festival comes to town

Hastings is due to host its first ever Palestinian Film Festival in May with a selection of movies from some of the country’s most exciting directors.

The Hastings and Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign (HRPSC) has teamed up with The Electric Palace cinema and The Printworks to showcase three films to mark Nakba Day, a day that for Palestinians is an annual commemoration of the displacement of people at the time of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.

Katy Colley is chair of HRPSC and explained to Hastings In Focus what the upcoming festival was all about and also spoke about the significance of the three films that have been chosen for screening.

“When people think about Palestine they often think about conflict and there are so many more stories to tell,” says Katy.

“These fantastic directors have chosen subjects with unusual and anarchic stories, ones that you would never normally come across and which open up our understanding of the people and the place in ways you wouldn’t expect.

“For example, Speed Sisters is about the first all-female racing car team in Palestine. They are defying all conventions and expectations to truly be themselves. These are universal themes but told from a completely unique perspective,” she says.

 Speed Sisters

She went on to explain a little bit about what Nakba Day is and how the films relate to it: “Nakba is the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe’ and is used to describe the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians between 1946 and 1949 by Israeli forces.

“During that period more than 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes and 550 villages were destroyed or occupied. Many descendants still live in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

“The director of The Wanted 18, Amer Shomali, grew up in a Syrian refugee camp, reading comic books because he couldn’t go outside to play. He read about the Beit Sahour cows which were bought by the townsfolk in order to produce their own milk. It was all part of the town’s campaign to be self-sufficient, but the 18 cows were identified as a ‘threat to the national security of the state of Israel’ so the townspeople had to hide them. It was a ridiculous situation but absolutely true and the film is told in a very funny way using archival footage, interviews, stop motion animation and drawings.”

The Wanted 18, uses humour to tell a serious story.

Katy says that by taking a personal approach to a point in history, some films offer new insight into a period of time: “Naila and the Uprising is the true story about Naila Ayesh, a student activist in the 1980s and her story illustrates the non-violent nature of their work for freedom, rights and justice.

“New mother Naila and dozens of other women build parallel institutions to challenge the Israeli military’s control of Palestinian life. For example underground classrooms replace schools that were shut down by the army, citizen-run health clinics treat those with no access to hospitals and ‘victory gardens’ break reliance on Israeli agriculture. So while most images of the first intifada paint a picture of stone throwing young men, this award-winning film describes a part of history that has been mostly overlooked,” explains Katy.

Scenes from Naila and the Uprising

Hastings and Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign is a small, active group of people who share a belief in equal rights and justice for Palestinians, Katy says: “We run regular stalls in Hastings and Rye town centres and we are affiliated to the national Palestine Solidarity Campaign which campaigns for a just peace for Palestine and Israel.

“Today there is an ongoing Nakba as seven million refugees are not allowed to return to their homes, a right guaranteed by the United Naions in 1948,” she says.

Film time showings:

  • Naila and the Uprising (Unrated)
  • Directed by Julia Bracha
  • The Electric Palace on May 10th, 8pm
  • Speed Sisters (PG)
  • Directed by Amber Fares
  • The Electric Palace on May 11th, 8pm
  • The Wanted 18 (Unrated)
  • Directed by Amer Shomali
  • The Printworks May 23rd, 7.30pm
  • Contact the venues directly to book tickets.

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