A reel show on Palestine's reality in UAE
The Reel Palestine film festival - which began last night - is now in its third year
Local organisers of a Palestinian film festival hope to give UAE residents a small glimpse of the nuanced reality of life in Palestine, both positive and negative.
The Reel Palestine film festival - which began last night - is now in its third year. According to its organisers, the idea for Reel Palestine began after an informal screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary '5 Broken Cameras' in 2014 - a 94-minute documentary showing a first-hand account of protests in a Palestinian village affected by Israel's West Bank barrier.
This year, in addition to 13 films, the festival will for the first time include a number of other events aimed at promoting Palestinian culture in the UAE. The festival will continue till January 28.
"Building on what we did last year, we have the same ambition, to bring Palestinian arts and culture to the UAE, both to Palestinians and the wider expat community that feels strongly about the Palestinian cause," said Dana Sadek, one of the event's organisers. "We have amazing films, but this year we are really trying to go make the whole week a celebration of Palestinian culture."
Among the events planned are a comedy show, as well pop-up markets from Palestinian artists showcasing the arts and embroidery of their homeland.
The movies cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from surfers in the Gaza Strip and the birth of a child in an Israeli prison to a documentary chronicling the involvement of Bangladeshi fighters in Lebanon's civil war and a science-fiction short film.
Sadek noted that the films have been chosen to showcase the nuances and variety of life in Palestine.
"In life, there are positives and negatives, and a broad spectrum of emotions and experiences," she said. "I think the beauty of this festival is that it shows everything. For the team which has been working on it - who are mostly Palestinians - I think it's really about connecting to the heritage and linking back to a country that they might not even have been able to see."
She added that, to her knowledge, the film festival is the only one in the Middle East that revolves around the people of Palestine, although similar events take place in Houston, Berlin, London and Toronto, among other places.
"Perhaps it's because arts and culture is not as evolved as in the West," she said. "Thankfully, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have done, and are doing, a lot to increase investment in arts and culture. But it's taking its own root and its own path. We need these sorts of community events.
"Independent film hasn't gotten quite the platform that it always has in the West," Sadek added. "We have a really great platform for Hollywood films and ticket items, so we are trying to bridge that."
Looking to the future, Sadek noted that Reel Palestine would continue to grow along with the filmmaking scene in Palestine.
"There's only one way to go, and it's up. It's ever growing. There is so much talent coming out of Palestine," she said. "There's so much potential."
The Reel Palestine film festival
What: 13 films from Palestine and a talk with writer and actor Amar Zehr
When: January 20 - 28
Venues: Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, Sharjah Art Foundation
For more information, visit ReelPalestine.org
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