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You should watch these Palestinian films at Sheffield DocFest this week

Feature documentaries, an exhibition and a dance workshop form part of the programme brought together by DocFest and the Palestine Film Institute (PFI), with a vigil on Friday. Here are all the details.

Jenin The Nakba Between Us dir Serene Husni

Jenin & The Nakba Between Us (dir. Serene Husni)

There are three feature documentaries, a short film, four works-in-progress, a dabka dance workshop, an Alternate Realities exhibition and several industry events featuring Palestinian filmmakers at Sheffield DocFest 2024, which runs from today (Weds 12 June) until Monday 17 June.

There are also events featuring Palestinian filmmakers in the industry, some of them raising funds to complete their films in progress, alongside three industry events as part of the Palestinian delegation, including a showcase and a vigil.

The DocFest website doesn’t have a ‘search by country’ function and the festival hasn't curated a specific strand or programme for Palestinian films, so we’ve worked with the Palestine Film Institute (PFI) to share all of this info before the festival begins.

We recommend checking out what the PFI has brought together, and then coming along to the vigil at Sheffield train station this Friday 14 June, which will honour Palestinian filmmakers, journalists and storytellers killed in Gaza.

The PFI said about the programme:

The last 8 months have underlined the great struggle we face as Palestinians, just to exist.

Our arts and culture – and our cinema in particular – have long played a fundamental role in protecting our narrative and reflecting the Palestinian struggle over the past 76 years.

In the context of the current genocide and the ongoing war on the Palestinian identity and narrative, the Palestine Film Institute (PFI) highlights the importance of supporting Palestinian films and narratives in international forums.

Films

DocFest and the PFI are showcasing three feature documentaries and a short film at the Showroom, The Light and Curzon as part of this year’s DocFest, as well as a storytelling installation as part of the Alternate Realities exhibition at Site Gallery.

Three Promises

Three Promises was created using videos captured by director Yousef Srouji’s mother Suha during the Second Intifada, while their family was living under bombing by the Israeli military. Srouji weaves together “fragmented images, learning more about that era, and his mother, who documented this world as her children huddled for safety in the basement.”

Thu 13 June, 1-2:21pm, Showroom - Screen 1
Fri 14 June, 6-7:21pm, Curzon - Screen 3
Sat 15 June, 10:30-11:51am, Curzon - Screen 1

Language(s): Arabic
Subtitles: English subtitles throughout

Life Is Beautiful

A “poignant portrayal of displacement,” Al haya helwa (Life is Beautiful) documents Mohamed Jabaly experiences of being cut off from his homeland of Gaza after visiting Norway on a student trip, finding himself in limbo and seeking Norwegian residency.

Fri 14 June, 2:30-16:38pm, Showroom - Bertha DocHouse Screen 3
Sun 16 June, 6:15-8:08pm, The Light - Screen 9

Language(s): Arabic, English, Norwegian
Subtitles: English subtitles throughout

No Other Land

No Other Land follows “an unlikely alliance” and friendship between Palestinian filmmaker Basel Adra and Israeli journalist Yuval Abraham, in the process “bearing witness to the everyday horrors of life under occupation, and the stark inequality it gives rise to.”

Fri 14 June, 5:30-7:56pm, Showroom - Warner Chappell Production Music Screen 4
Sun 16 June, 3:30-5:26pm, The Light - Screen 9

Language(s): Arabic, Hebrew, English
Subtitles: English subtitles throughout

Dancing Palestine

Lamees Almakkawy’s Dancing Palestine explores how the dabke, the traditional folk dance of Palestine, has become “an essential form of resistance for young Palestinians” facing cultural erasure, as well as being an act of collective remembrance. The short film will be complemented by a free immersive dance workshop (Wed 12 June 18:00-19:00).

Wed 12 June, 3:30-5:24pm, Showroom - Bertha DocHouse Screen 3
Thu 13 June, 5:15-7:09pm, Curzon - Screen 2

Language(s): Arabic, English
Subtitles: Partial English subtitles

Remember This Place

Part of DocFest's Alternate Realities exhibition, Remember This Place: 31°20’46’’N 34°46’46’’E is a “moving collection of stories from Bedouin women remembering the homes they have been forcibly removed from and the culture they are fighting to preserve.”

Wed 12 June to Mon 17 June, various times (booking required), Site Gallery

Language(s): Arabic, English

Subtitles: Partial English subtitles

Industry events

A PFI Showcase event (Sat 15 June, Crucible, 3:45-4:45pm) will feature four films currently in development, which are listed below.

There’s also a chance for people in the film industry to meet and build relationships with Palestinian filmmakers at the PFI Breakfast Mixer event (Fri 14 June, 9-10am, Cutlers Hall).

Ghassan Abu Sittah The Reluctant Hero

Ghassan Abu-Sittah: The Reluctant Hero (dir. Carol Mansour) follows the renowned reconstructive surgeon, documenting his role "challenging the prevailing settler colonial narrative" and as a medic in one of the worst war zones in the world.

Yusra

In Yusra, director Salim Abu Jabal follows the story of an intriguing photo of a British archaeologist and a Palestinian woman, who appears to have discovered the first Neanderthal skeleton in the Middle East in the 1930s. It's "a tale of heritage and identity that transcends borders, as well as a story of the omission of women of colour from colonial history writing."

Out Of Place

Out of Place sees director Mohammed Majdalaw try to re-connect with childhood friends who are exiled all over Europe after he rediscovers his video tapes of them dabke dancing in his teenage years – ultimately being reunited with them at his friend's graduation in Sheffield.

Jenin The Nakba Between Us dir Serene Husni

Jenin & The Nakba Between Us (dir. Serene Husni)

Serene Husni's Jenin & The Nakba Between Us sees the filmmaker return to her family's hometown at the northernmost part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. She finds the town bears little relation to the images she has carried in her mind, passed down through her family's oral history, and attempts to document the captive places and landscape to reconcile this difference. "Her footage would become a haunting record of a town on the eve of yet another major cycle of destruction and violence."

PSC PFI vigil

Vigil this Friday

Finally, the PFI is joining with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) for a vigil event this Friday 14 June, 5pm at Sheffield Train Station.

PFI and PSC say:

During the week of Sheffield DocFest – one of the biggest documentary festivals in the world – we honour the Palestinian journalists, filmmakers and our colleagues killed in Gaza – while the film industry remains silent.

Access info

The Light cinema has lifts to all floors and wheelchair spaces in all screens. More info via AccessAble.

The Showroom cinema has a sloped ramp that leads to the main cinema entrance, which is electronically assisted. Lift access is provided to cinemas at the lower level and all 4 screens have level access. Accessible toilets are available on the upper and lower levels, and in the cafe bar. There are four disabled parking spaces outside the venue, but these cannot be reserved. Guide dogs and hearing dogs are welcome. More info via Showroom.

The Curzon cinema has a wheelchair-accessible entrance, with an automatic door fitted with a doorbell, and each screen has two wheelchair spaces. More info via AccessAble.

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