The Chicago Palestine Film Festival, the world’s longest running Palestinian film festival, announced its 2015 line-up. This year’s festival will be held from April 18-30 at the Gene Siskel Film Center and will feature award-winning films such as Eyes of a Thief by Najwa Najjar. Here is a listing of this year’s films.
Saturday, April 18, 8:00 p.m.
By Rana Khaled Al Khatib (Lebanon & Qatar)
HAJJAR, an old and charming woman, was forced to emigrate from Palestine. At the age of 7, she walked barefoot with her family to Lebanon. Hajjar’s journey was a difficult one, filled with many adversities and sufferings. After being evacuated with no warning, Hajjar, like all other Palestinians, was promised the right to return to her home in 10 days. Until this day, Hajjar still lives in a refugee camp. Unable to go back to Palestine, the camp has been a temporary home where she has been unable to settle. TWO GIRLS travel to the refugee camp, Burj Al Burajneh, and stay with Hajjar in her home. During their 10-day stay, the girls not only learn more about Hajjar, but also experience her story and journey to Lebanon as she re-tells the tale. This documentary brings Hajjar’s story to life and sheds light on the reality of the current situation of displaced Palestinians.
EYES OF A THIEF (98min)
By Najwa Najjar (Palestine) Film Trailer
Palestine’s official submission for Academy Awards consideration puts a father’s search for his missing daughter at the center of this tale of a man’s violent, compromised past, and his troubled present under the Occupation. Tareq (Egyptian superstar Naga) emerges from an Israeli prison unaware of his family’s whereabouts. Following the traces, he lands in a town where he draws the unwanted interference of a self-appointed leader. Director Najjar (POMEGRANATES AND MYRRH) uses a real-life event as the jumping off point for a story that foregrounds the formidable tensions of life on the West Bank. In Arabic with English subtitles.
Film maker Najwa Najjar will be present for an audience discussion via Skype
Sunday, April 19, 5:15 p.m.
MIRROR IMAGE (11min)
By Danielle Schwartz (Israel)
Jewish Israeli grandparents are challenged by their grandchild to compose an agreed-upon version of the untold story of a large crystal mirror, taken from the Palestinian village of Zarnuqa during the Nakba – the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians by the new Israeli state in the 1948 war. An intimate discussion that reflects on the presence of the Nakba in the lives of Jewish Israelis
and addresses its silenced remnants, located at the very center of our lives.
MAY IN THE SUMMER (99min) Film Website
By Cherien Dabis (USA, Jordan, Qatar)
Cherien Dabis (AMREEKA) directs and stars in MAY IN THE SUMMER, boldly staging a romantic comedy against the uneasy background of Middle Eastern conflict. May, a best-selling New York author, meets with trouble verging on disaster when she returns to her native Jordan to prepare for her wedding. Juggling a born-again Christian mom opposed to her marriage to a Muslim, a womanizing American dad with his new wife, and two sisters in the throes of identity crises, she meets a tall, dark stranger. In English.
Guest: film maker Danielle Schwartz will be present for a Q&A session
Monday, April 20, 8:00 p.m.
JOURNEY OF A FREEDOM FIGHTER (31min) Film Website
By Mohammed Moawia (Palestine & Sweden)
“Journey of a Freedom Fighter” follows Rabea Turkman on his journey from armed resistance fighter to cultural resistance fighter. He joined the armed resistance during the Second Palestinian Intifada, and then at the recommendation of a friend and fellow fighter, decided to join The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp following the amnesty in 2007. Turkman explains after one of his performances, “People used to look down on me for putting down my weapon and joining the theatre, so this play brought me back…This play is another kind of resistance.”
ENCOUNTER WITH A LOST LAND (62min) Film Trailer
By Maryse Gargour (Lebanon)
They are French citizens, born in Jaffa, Bethlehem, Jerusalem. Their parents are consuls, surgeons, well known traders, living in Palestine in the 20’s, 30’s, for some since four generations. These French people are particularly attached to this land as they grew up there peacefully without any discrimination from the local population used to the comings and goings of ships and nationalities of all horizon. Their stories reveal the everyday dynamics and life in Palestine at these times. These observers and actors are also first hand witnesses of the events that are happening in Palestine at this period and of Palestinian History and they leads us with their stories to the 50’s and beyond. The film is based on diplomatic archives, personal correspondences ,newspapers, consular correspondences, unpublished audiovisuals archives.
Amy Stebbins will introduce JOURNEY OF A FREEDOM FIGHTER and give background on he Freedom Theater in Jenin, Palestine
Wednesday, April 22, 8:30 p.m. (VIVA PALESTINA!)
BERNARDA ALBA IN PALESTINE (23min)
By Cristina Andreu (Spain & Palestine) Film Website
At the University of Bethlehem in Palestine, a group of girls begin to rehearse for the university theatrical work by Federico Garcia Lorca “La casa de Bernarda Alba”, along with their Spanish teacher. The documentary shows the process for preparing the play and the everyday difficulties faced by these young “actresses” in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
VOICE OF A CONDOR (45 min)
By Heba El-Attar (United States) Film Trailer
Today, Chile has the largest Palestinian Diaspora outside of the Middle East. This documentary features the voice of the Christian Palestinian Diaspora in Chile. It is a voice which strongly brings the Palestinian Christian population back to the political map of Palestine/Israel. In the film, members of this Diaspora, dwelling in Chile, articulate how they recovered the voice which their coreligionists in the holy land had lost. More importantly, they demonstrate how the Palestinian Diaspora, especially the Christian Palestinian one, is a decisive force in the efforts to establish a Palestinian state.
Guest: Film maker Heba El-Attar will be present for a Q&A
Thursday, April 23, 8:15 p.m.
By Rana Khaled Al Khatib (Lebanon & Qatar)
Like many others in 1948, HAJJAR, an old and charming woman, was forced to emigrate from Palestine. At the age of 7, she walked barefoot with her family to Lebanon. Hajjar’s journey was a difficult one, filled with many adversities and sufferings. After being evacuated with no warning, Hajjar, like all other Palestinians, was promised the right to return to her home in 10 days. Until this day, Hajjar still lives in a refugee camp. Unable to go back to Palestine, the camp has been a temporary home where she has been unable to settle. Hajjar was taken away from a home that was filled with beautiful olive trees, and now lives in a home where she does not even have the space to plant one seed. TWO GIRLS travel to the refugee camp, Burj Al Burajneh, and stay with Hajjar in her home. During their 10-day stay, the girls not only learn more about Hajjar, but also experience her story and journey to Lebanon as she re-tells the tale. This documentary brings Hajjar’s story to life and sheds light on the reality of the current situation of displaced Palestinians.
Friday, April 24, 8:15 p.m.
CONDOM LEAD (14min) Film Website
By Tarzan & Arab Abou Nasser (Gaza, Palestine)
“Cast Lead”, the name of the 2009 offensive against the Gaza Strip, alone tells of its brutality. So does the siege’s duration: 22 continuous days. Terror and despair, the universal reaction to conflict situations, seize the population. Unable to move, people are plunged into an unbearable oppression of forced resignation. Caught in the net of such brutality, the first instinct of a human being is to eat, stay warm, secure a source of light. Banal gestures in the return to life’s most urgent needs and necessities, the search for physical and psychological safety and equilibrium.
VILLA TOUMA (85min) Film Trailer
By Suha Arraf (Palestine)
Suha Arraf, screenwriter of THE SYRIAN BRIDE and THE LEMON TREE, makes her directorial debut with this atmospheric coming of age tale steeped in irony and touched by subtle comedy. Badia (Zreik), a spirited orphan girl, passes into the reluctant custody of three uptight and devoutly Christian spinster aunts in the gloomy time warp of their crumbling Ramallah mansion, where a plan is hatched to marry her off before her wild ways sully the reputation of these faded aristocrats living on past glory. In Arabic with English subtitles.