RAMALLAH: Palestinian cinema goers got a unique chance to be the first audiences to watch a film about a fourth generation Palestinian refugee girl longing to reach hope whilst living in Lebanese Burj Al-Barajneh refugee camp.
The 80-minute animation film “the Tower,” directed by Norwegian Mats Grorud, fits the slogan of the Cinema Days, the fifth Palestinian cinema festival, which is “Palestinians resist through film.”
The film focuses on the issue of refugees who have recently seen substantial pressure after the U.S. administration decided to cut off aid to the only UN agency providing support to the Palestinian refugees, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Grorud told Xinhua that story is about an 11-year-old girl who is exactly the kind of girl in an UNRWA school and faces more problems because the United States cut their funds to UNRWA. She is fighting for a life.
The girl, named Warda, might have to fight to stay in school due to her family’s difficult financial situation, but is given a new task by her great grandfather to help find her hope, the long-awaited return to her original hometown in the Galilee.
“My message to all these young kids is to keep hoping and to keep fighting for what they believe to be right for them,” said Grorud.
Ten-year-old Laila Najjar from Haifa gave the animated Warda her Arabic voice, with a tone of hope and character of a curious girl.
Najjar said that “I now understand the feelings of refugees through Warda’s character, whom I loved because we have a lot of similarities. For example, both our grandparents were forced out of their hometowns, but mine was lucky to find a way back from Lebanon to Nazareth, and did not give up.”
“I loved Warda’s character because she will not give up and seeks to find hope for all others,” she said.
Cinema Days spokesperson Khuloud Badawi told China’s state run news-wire service Xinhua that “cinema is a struggle tool to raise awareness. We believe that our festival this year should have a clear political message.”
Badawi stressed that it is not enough “that we are holding a successful film festival that meets international standards, but we are also sending a clear message that our basic rights are inseparable part of our identity and artistic message.”
The characters of the film are caught between the longing for hope and the exhaustion of daily life inside the camp, that they continue to build one storey on top of the other, expanding horizontally in the small camp, according to Badawi.
“The image of the film is really about how generation after generation keep living in this camp and new generations are born as refugees,” said the filmmaker, who spent a year in Bur Al-Barajneh refugee camp to make the film.
“So, I chose the tower as a symbol that I feel is right for the injustice done to the Palestinians but also their resilience and their continued struggle to survive,” he added.
More than 60 films will be screened during the week for Palestinian, Arab and international filmmakers, including two Oscar nominated films.
The cinema festival kicked off on Oct. 17 and will last until Oct. 23.
The hype created by the Cinema Days will also see specialized workshops and competition to the Sunbird Award to three winners among 22 competing films.
Ameen Nayfeh, a 30-year-old filmmaker competing for the Sunbird Award, said the festival gives the Palestinian audience a taste to a variety of films and cinema schools, as well as promotes cinema in Palestine.
Nayfeh, whose film “the Crossing” has been awarded the Jury Prize in the Arab short film festival in Beirut last week, said it will be the first time that he gets to attend his own film screening with his audience.
“For me, my participation in the Sunbird Award is very important, because it allows me the chance to be with my local audience when it is screened in Palestine. For the first time, the crew and even my family will all be together for the screening,” Nayfeh said.
Author: Fatima Aruri