Palestinians Have a Chance to Watch the Movie

by Maher Abukhater
15 April 2005
Ramallah - Dubbed in Arabic, the Oscar winning film Gandhi was premiered in Ramallah Wednesday April 6, launching plans to screen the film throughout the Palestinian areas and Arab world.

Makers of the original film in English, including actor Sir Ben Kingsley, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Gandhi in the film, told a press conference, two hours before screening the film in Ramallah, that the Arabic version came in response to a Palestinian initiative.

"We saw a genuine need and we responded," he said, joined in this by the film producer Jake Eberts.

Kingsley, Eberts and Palestinian director Hanna Elias, who worked on the Arabic dubbing since September, along with the funders Kamran Elahian, founder of Global Catalyst Foundation, and Jeff Skoll, founder of Skoll Foundation, met before the press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other members of the Palestinian civil society.

Kingsley said he saw strong support from Abbas to this work, which he hoped would carry a message to the Palestinian and Arab people that "the force of truth is irreducible."

He said the film was not about violence or non-violence, rather about one word he mentioned in Indian, satyagraha, which means "truth force."

The Palestinian director Hanna Elias said: "A lot of effort was put into this project by all parties; Sony Pictures donated the rights to dub the film Gandhi. We were able to complete the work in less than a year with support from the Skoll Foundation and the Global Catalyst Foundation (GCF). Mr. Kamran Elahian, Founder of GCF and Mr. Jeff Skoll, Founder of Skoll Foundation believe that it is essential to support Palestinian Civil Society that practices Gandhi's philosophy and call for economic self-reliance."

Elias said the idea for an Arabic version of the film Gandhi came a few years ago when he and Elahian were travelling through the West Bank and Gaza.

The Israeli military checkpoints and the situation on the ground showed him how important it was to present to the Palestinian people a film that can give them hope.

He approached the producers of Gandhi and Skoll and was able to get them to commit 60,000 US dollars to make the Arabic version of the film.

However, when the work was completed, the costs did not exceed 20,000 US dollars, said Elias, a Palestinian film director whose recent film The Olive Harvest won best picture in the Cairo Film Festival.

The date for launching the film, April 6, also came coincidental with the fact that April 6 was the date mentioned in the film for fast and prayer.

When work on the film began in September, said Skoll, it was planned to be completed in April. However, certain problems a month before schedule made it appear as if the production would be delayed.

However, explained Skoll, when it was realized that the launching date, April 6, was the day of prayer and fast, work was increased and the dubbing ended on time.

Eberts said he was ready to make the film in other languages if necessary, praising what he said was the high quality of the work in Arabic.

The film, using 129 Palestinian actors for the dubbing, will be screened in the Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps. It will be given to schools and non-governmental organizations to show it wherever possible. The Ramallah event will be followed by screenings in Jerusalem on April 7th, Bethlehem on April 9th and Gaza on April 14th. The April launch in Palestine will be followed in May by screenings in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

* Maher Abukhater is a Palestinian journalist based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Source: The Arabic Media Internet Network, April 6, 2005.

Visit the Arabic Media Internet Network online:

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

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