5th Palestine Cinema Days festival launches in West Bank

Nearly 1,000 people attended the launch of
the annual Palestine Cinema Days festival at the Cultural Palace in the
occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday.

The 5th edition of the festival is screening in Ramallah, Bethlehem,
Jerusalem, Nablus and Gaza between 17-23 October with more than 60 films
from Palestinian, Arab and international filmmakers. Two Oscar
nominated films will also be shown throughout the seven days of the

“We believe that cinema is an important tool to raise our voices as a
people under occupation and to raise all the voices of Palestinians
wherever they are in the refugee camps,” Palestine Cinema Days
spokesperson Khulood Badawi told MEMO, adding that the festival aims to
revive cinema culture in Palestine and encourage the making of
Palestinian films.

The festival, which was founded by Filmlab Palestine in 2014, hopes to
promote Palestinian resilience in the face of hardship and occupation
and to put Palestine on the map of international cinema through a unique
programme of renowned international film screenings, along with panel
discussions, professional film workshops and networking opportunities
for aspiring film directors and actors.

This year’s edition of the film festival coincides with the 70th
anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, as well as the United States
moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and cutting financial aid
to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
(UNRWA). Organisers see the festival as a tool to amplify Palestinian
voices in light of the United States’ efforts to diminish the
Palestinians’ fundamental right of return and their basic rights of
freedom and dignity.

Badawi said that the festival launched in Ramallah as opposed to
Jerusalem “because most of our audience in the West bank and Gaza are
not able to reach the festival in Jerusalem,” pointing out the
restrictions on movement in Palestine and the hardships Palestinians
have been facing for decades as a result of the Israeli occupation.

“Hopefully one day,” she continued, “when we [are] free, the opening
will be in Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine, and hopefully we
continue to have more and more success.”

The festival opened with the screening of the animated film “The Tower”
by Norwegian director Mats Grorud. The fiction film is set in Burj
Al-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon. It highlights 70 years of strife
since the Nakba in 1948 through the eyes of a curious 11-year-old girl
named Wardi who lives with her family in the refugee camp where she was

“It is fantastic to be here and have a screening in Palestine,” Grorud
told MEMO. “I lived in Burj Al-Barajneh refugee camp in 2001 and what I
heard from my friends living there touched me…I wanted to share their
stories with the world.” He also said that animation helps audiences
identify with Palestinians as they relate to us all as human beings.

“My message to kids growing up in the camps is to not lose hope and
faith in the future and to keep struggling and fighting for what is
right,” he continued.

Palestine Cinema Days will also present the Sunbird Award competition
this year which was first launched in 2016. Twenty-two films of the 60
films submitted have been selected to compete for the award, including
four feature length documentaries, 13 short films and five projects.

The winners will be announced during the closing ceremony on 23 October and will be awarded €2,000 ($2,299).

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