Monday, October 16, 2017

Gaza rolls out the red carpet for third consecutive year


By The Palestine Monitor - May 22, 2017
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Section: [Main News] [Culture] [Features]
Tags: [culture] [cinema] [Gaza]

“It seemed impossible until the very last minute,” Abed Hussein, one of the festival organizers recalls about the opening ceremony on May 12 at the Gaza seaport. A tailor had made the screen, sawing together pieces of white fabric to make it 14 meters high and 10 meters wide. “We are thinking of applying to the Guinness world records,” Abed Hussein said laughing. But it was far from being the only concern.
 
Importing cables into the Gaza Strip is forbidden by the Israeli authorities as they are considered “dual-use” material, meaning something that may be used for civilian as well as military purposes by the Islamist movement Hamas, which Israel, alongside the EU and the US, considers a terrorist organization. But the festival needed those cables to set up two electric generators far from the sound system, which itself required heavy equipment since the first screening was on the port and the noise from the waves had to be covered.
 
“We called every single person we knew to ask them if they had cables for audio and video,” Abed recalls. “In the end, electricians did a great job at arranging all the cables and we were able to make it happen.”
 
As the 100-meter long red carpet was rolled out at the port, Abed Hussein suddenly realized that the banners designed to stand on both sides needed to be fixed with more metal strings as the wind was getting stronger. “Same thing: there’s no metal string in the Strip, we actually had to take some out things that are already do-it-yourself kind of arrangements.”
 
“Until the last minute, we were not sure we had all the good paperwork and permits, or if the screen was not going to fall,” Montaser al Sabea, another organizer, said.
 
Despite the hurdles, thousands of people showed up at the opening night, for the screening of Ghost Hunting, a film by Palestinian director Raed Andoni about Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. It won the award for best documentary at the Berlin Film Festival.
 
The movies themselves could not easily reach the Strip. Most of them were uploaded to a digital cloud, with all sorts of digital security measures for them not to be stolen. It was the easiest solution as it is very difficult to send mail or packages to the Gaza Strip. “It may take more than 3 months, and you never know in which condition it will arrive,” says Abed.
 
For the small team of a about a dozen heading the festival, all the efforts were worth to revive cinema culture in the Gaza Strip.
 
“Our past looks better than our future,” Montaser al Sabea explains, “so we want to revive it, that’s also the motto of the festival 'We Want To Return’”. Cinema halls were demolished in the eighties amid tensions, the beginning of the first intifada, and a growing influence of Islamic movements. But before, Palestinian cinema and theaters did exist and it was very common for Palestinians in Gaza to go there. “My parents went right after they got engaged, to celebrate,” remembers Saud Aburamadan, the Red Carpet film festival's spokesperson.
 
Most of the young people who attended the screenings never actually experienced a screening in a real movie theater. Falasteen, a young woman, explained she connected in a deeper way with the documentary she saw on screen, because she felt “caught by the set up” of dim lights and such a large screen. “I forgot about all the people in the room, and I was experiencing the movie as never before,” she said.
 
Photo by Omar El Qattaa 

 

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