First of its kind film festival in Gaza

by Nelly Al-Masri
28 July 2009
Gaza - The "Gaza in the Eyes of Women” film festival aims to create a cultural phenomenon through cinema. Festival organisers say they are looking to communicate directly with Palestinian and Arab women directors, and that it’s no small task trying to organise an event that has no precedent in Gaza.

The three-day festival will begin in September 2009 at the Rashad al-Shawa Cultural Center in Gaza City and will include training workshops on the movie-making process using films chosen by the festival's committee.

Itram Washah, coordinator of the video programme at the host organisation, the Women’s Affairs Center, said Palestinian directors have a need to express their causes and ambitions, and spread their message to the Arab world.

“Palestinian woman can be creative even at the darkest times”, Washah said, adding that many talented women directors need support and exposure – something the Women’s Center has been working to achieve during the past three years.

The festival expects to screen around 50 films, which include local entries as well as films from Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco, Sudan and Jordan.

Washah said that the two-year Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip made communications with participating Arab directors difficult – and shipping even more so. But she says the blockade was unable to control the phone systems and internet – which were the primary means of “breaking” the blockade's overwhelming effects on everyday life.

The Center was able to arrange a collection point in Egypt for Arab movies featured in the film festival, including films by Arab industry heavyweights like director Sama al-Aryan, Jordanian director Tayssir Masharqa, and Moroccan director Omar al-Fatihi, in addition to nine Palestinian films.

Palestinian director Saud Mehanna, a consultant on the festival's supervisory committee, called directors and made other key arrangements to assure their participation in the festival. Although Mehanna expects this year’s festival will exceed expectations in terms of participation and access to training, he says it is a blueprint that will only improve, especially given that it’s the only festival of its kind.

Some have criticised the festival for delaying the original launch date scheduled for earlier this year, a decision Mehanna says was based on the appalling social and political climate in Gaza, as well as the “harsh circumstances that affect Palestinians in general and women in particular.”

Participating films focus on Palestinian women’s issues, especially the lives of Palestinian women living in Gaza during the Israeli blockade and the recent Gaza War, and overall socially relevant themes such as violence and divorce.

The festival, Mehanna says, is a chance for Gaza’s female directors to rise above the current situation and overcome it, despite the obstacles.

The festival committee includes the executive manager of the Center, Amal Siyyam; manager of the Center for Research and Legal Consultations, Zeinab Ghanimi,; scholar May Naef; directors Saud Mehanna, Majida Thabet and Khalil al-Zein; writer and media worker Hidaya Shamoun; coordinator of video programmes, Itram Washah; and assistant coordinator Nour al-Halabi.


* Nelly Al-Masri is a journalist. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from Menassat.

Source: Menassat, 22 July 2009,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.
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