Today: April 15, 2024

Palestine Film Festival

This year’s Palestinian Film Festival sees its 30 odd features stretch across three venues for the first time.

This year’s Palestinian Film Festival sees its 30 odd features stretch across three venues for the first time. Starting on the 29th of April, FilmJuice attended one evening in which a double helping of films were on offer that were sheltered under the Barbican’s high rise theatre. The event has so far boasted more than a few premieres, documentaries and biopics to celebrate, examine and debate the Arabic culture.

Midpoint of the festival saw a screening of Heiny Srour’s Leila and the Wolves. Followed by a Q&A with Srour, this dramatisation documents the untold involvement of Palestinian women from the late 1930s to the near present day in times of war. Written in just under three weeks, Srour produced this vehicle of feminine force to voice the strains and triumphs of oppressed women and their often overlooked positions within the many conflicts of religion.

“My subconscious was speaking without censorship when writing this,” she explains when addressing the controversy surrounding the film’s screening. Srour and her crew encountered several near death experiences to document the conflicts in Libya and Beirut and how women used their domestic and eventually violent positions to help bring revenge or victory to their families.

“One of the things that I am most proud of is that in Pakistan the women retrieved copies of my film and dubbed it in various languages. A woman in the UN informed me that they use it as a weapon against fundamentalists.”

Setting the tone humbly for the festival that spreads to the 11th of May , Leila reflects a steady perspective of the Middle East channelled through an exiled curator (Leila) who acts as a catalyst for the narrative, moving through re-enactments juxtaposed against real footage of street battles obtained either through the Imperial War Museum or Srour herself. The general nature of the film is morbidly claustrophobic; this is no chewing gum for the eyes. The women portrayed in the feature are obviously victimised, subjected to discrimination, domestic abuse and death devoid of glory and dignity. Humour is sparse but effective; the use of a wedding preparation to smuggle bullets and guns into a heavily guarded province would have Danny Ocean shaking in his shoes.

The Q&A following the screening proves more relevant to the festival’s theme than the film itself, with its director challenging the throng of eager viewers to speak up about what they didn’t like about Leila and the Wolves. “Be you critics of male chauvinists I don’t mind, I welcome every opinion as democracy should.”

Although minor holes were picked at tentatively at structure and representation, the interaction with this clearly impassioned speaker bought fourth new dimensions to an already complex picture, as the ill informed learned of the attitudes towards sexuality and family worth amongst an array of other areas of debate.

With the festival’s close drawing in on the 11th of this month there are still numerous screenings that remain covering varied and relevant Arabic issues; and with historical tutorials, Q&A sessions, panel debates and short films accompanying most features, the Palestinian Film Festival allows an unflinching insight into a turbulent population.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website:

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