by Margaret Chrystall
THE first Highland Palestine Film Festival opens on Sunday at Eden Court looking at the history of Palestine and showcasing five high-quality films from the region.
Palestinian writer and human rights lawyer Raja Shehadeh will open the festival before a screening of the Lemon Tree and the festival ends on Sunday, August 30 with On The Side Of The Road followed by a Q&A with director Lia Tarachansky.
Eden Court’s film programmer Paul Taylor said: "The Highland Palestine network approached me and given my love of cinema from the region I was delighted to be a part of it.
"There will be discussions after the films and the last film in the series, On The Side Of The Road, will have the director present."
Highland Palestine say the films shed light on differing aspects of the continuing Palestinian struggle under military occupation by Israel, which forced three quarters of a million Palestinians to leave their homes and hundreds of villages into exile when it was established in 1948.
The Side Of The Road has been called "a brave and unsettling" documentary, as Lia Tarachansky challenges the Israeli population’s collective amnesia regarding the events of 1948, when the state of Israel was born and three quarters of a million Palestinians became refugees.
Derek Newton, co-ordinator of Highland Palestine, said: "We wanted to put on a season of films that helped people to understand more about the situation in Palestine from a different aspect, but also to make people aware of the range and quality of film-making in the region. Both those issues have been important in making our choice of the films to include.
"We chose five films and two are modern classics – Lemon Tree and The Time That Remains.
"The other three are very recent films showing what’s happening currently in film-making in the area.
"And we’re going to be very fortunate to have the director of the film, On The Side Of The Road, coming to talk about the making of her film and I think we are very lucky to have her.
"One of the themes in this season is history and telling the history of Palestine.
"The Gatekeepers is based on interviews with Israeli security chiefs of the Shin Bet and it’s a good way of telling the history of Palestine and Israel since 1967.
"But the film On The Side Of The Road is from a different point of view. It’s about the way Israel has denied the history of Palestine and suppressed that in a very deliberate way.
"The Time That Remains is also about history, but a much more personal account of the history of Palestine from 1948 onwards."
Newton said: "I think if anyone who doesn’t know anything about the history watches all five films they will come away with a much more rounded understanding of the issues at stake in Palestine.
"But I think it’s important for people to know that though the films are about Palestine and Israel — and though we’re calling it the Highland Palestine Film Festival — three of the film-makers are in fact Israeli.
"There are a lot of films coming out of Israel and Palestine and all over the world there are quite a lot of Palestine film festivals. There are several in Britain in the US and in Holland, so we are only catching up, in a way.
"The Highlands has an interesting connection to Palestine. There are many people who have connections with Palestine - people who were with the British Army and also quite a lot of people who spent time working in Israel and Palestine in different capacities.
"We have a local informal group called Highland Palestine and we have met a lot of people over the past few years who have these connections.
"One of our main objectives is to share information with people about what is happening, so we publish a newsletter and have meetings and other informal events."
As well as the Inverness screenings, there will be two more chances to see the film in the Highlands.
"We’re also showing Lia’s film in Lochinver Village Hall on Thursday, August 27 and at the MacPhail Centre, Ullapool on Friday, August 28."
Mr Newton said: "One of the advantages of being up here is that people want to come up to see the Highlands and both Lia and Raja wanted to come – Raja loves coming to the Highlands and has spent a bit of time here."
Highland Palestine is a voluntary network of people across the Scottish Highlands which supports the Palestinian people’s struggle.
Alongside the film festival at the theatre, Drumnadrochit artist Jane Frere’s exhibition of paintings, Shadow of The Nakba, was inspired by her time as an artist in residence in Palestine, where she lived in refugee camps and close to the separation wall.
The artist said: "I experienced the living conditions in refugee camps in the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon, where generation after generation have been forced to live, never abandoning the hope of some day returning even after 67 years.
"This remains the longest unresolved refugee crisis and I hope my work might at least trigger people into wondering why."
The films are: Lemon Tree on Sunday (August 2) at 3pm with writer and speaker Raja Shehadeh launching the festival and in conversation; The Gatekeepers on Thursday, August 13 at 8pm; The Time That Remains on Tuesday, August 18 at 7pm; The Wanted 18 on Thursday, August 18 at 6pm; On The Side Of The Road on Sunday, August 30 at 5pm with a director’s Q& A afterwards with Lia Tarachansky.
Find a description of the films and trailer clips below:
Lemon Tree (2008)
Palestinian widow, Salma Zidane, has withdrawn into a solitary life, carefully tending the lemon grove inherited from her father. When Israeli Defense Minister, Israel Navon, moves in next door and the Israeli security forces issue an order to uproot her trees on ‘security grounds’, Salma discovers an inner resolve that will lead her to Israel’s Supreme Court and international attention. Director: Eran Reckless. On on Sunday (August 2) at 3pm.
The Gatekeepers (2012)
For the first time, six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, reflect publicly on the policies that have shaped Israel and its relations with the Palestinian people since 1967. Interwoven with rare newsreel footage, these intimate interviews shed a chilling light on Israel’s covert military operations, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ and state sanctioned, targeted assassinations. Director: Dror More. On on Thursday, August 13 at 8pm.
The Time That Remains (2009)
Based on memories of his own family, Elia Suleiman presents a narrative of the Palestinian experience from the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 through to the present day that is both intensely personal and acutely political. Drawing stylistically on the language of silent film, he presents a series of blackly comic vignettes of life under occupation, beginning will the surrender of Nazareth to the Israeli army. Director: Elia Suleiman. On on Tuesday, August 18 at 7pm.
The Wanted 18 (2014)
Through stop-motion animation, drawings and interviews, directors Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan recreate an astonishing true story from the First Palestinian Intifada: the Israeli army’s pursuit of eighteen cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm was declared “a threat to the national security of the state of Israel.” Director: Amer Somali. On on Thursday, August 18 at 6pm.
On The Side Of The Road (2013)
In this brave and unsettling documentary, Lia Tarachansky challenges the Israeli population’s collective amnesia regarding the events of 1948, when the state of Israel was born and three quarters of a million Palestinians became refugees. Attempting to shed light on the country’s biggest taboo, she is met with outrage and violence. Director: Lia Tarachansky. On on Sunday, August 30 at 5pm.