Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Euro-Palestinian Water Film Festival

By Samuela Galea - October 24, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Culture] [Videos] [Features]
Tags: [culture] [Palestinian Films] [Water]

The United Nations (UN) named the year  2013 as the “International Year for Water Cooperation.” Since the start of the year, many projects have taken place worldwide aimed at increasing awareness about the international challenges and demands regarding water management, sanitation and access. 

Focusing on these challenges within Palestine, the Palestinian Water Authority and the European Union (EU), along with a number of Member States, have collaborated in order to organize the first Euro-Palestinian Water Film Festival, set to tae place throughout October and November in various locations within the West Bank including Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and also in Gaza. 

The overall objective of the festival is to raise awareness, not just about the political aspects of the water issue in Palestine, but also its cultural and social implications whilst sharing and encouraging the works of Palestinian film-makers—thus  combining the fields of culture, cinema and water.

They try to make our life miserable. We try to make it possible.

Dr Shaddad Attili, head of Palestinian Water Authority, spoke enthusiastically at the festival's opening on Monday 21 October at the al-Qasbah Theatre in Ramallah. He thanked the EU member states for funding and collaborating on such an event as well as on all the ongoing and0 vital water management projects in the West Bank and Gaza, such as the large and small scale waste water treatment plants. 

Dr. Shaddad explained that these projects are a sign of hope for the numerous Palestinians who regularly come to him asking for water. He argued the fact that in many cases he has no authority to do anything, especially in Area C which falls under full Israeli military and civil control. He battles with such frustrations on a daily basis and has, as result, begun to joking refer to himself as the Minister of “Virtual Water.” 

This same argument was further explained in one of the films screened at the festival’s opening, “Jordan Valley Blues,” produced by 'Lifesource' in 2012. Despite all the struggles and political conflict, Dr Shaddad's words were ones full of positivity for continued work towards solutions in creating easy access to potable water for all Palestinians. 

“They try to make our life miserable. We try to make it possible,” said Dr. Shaddad.

The Communication and Information Officer for the EU, Mr. Shadi Othman, who was also present at the opening, likewise spoke about the special significance of this festival in highlighting one of the EU's top priorities in its assistance to Palestine. These being water waste treatment, water sanitation and networks across the West Bank and Gaza. 

“We work with the Palestinian Water Authority and try to tackle their most urgent issues in order to minimize the challenge which Palestinians face in securing their needs of water for agriculture and drinking,” said Mr. Othman. 

Among various foreign films, the festival includes an interesting list of Palestinian productions released last year, such as “Palestinian Dream,” by Ahmad Tariq Hamad, “Farming in Despair,” by Mashareq, “Every Day Nakba,” by Mohammad Al Azza and “Atash,” (Thirst) directed by Tawfk Abu Wael. 

”Atash,” which also screened at the opening last Monday, brought about a slightly heated discussion at the end of the evening when some members of the audience repeatedly asked the Director why he did not clearly represent the Israeli occupation and water issue in his film. He calmly replied that his aim was not to represent the entire situation, but only himself and his own emotions.

The 'thirst' in the film was meant to symbolize a yearning for love and freedom, not just for water. Some claimed this to be disrespectful and walked out offended. Others, however, supported the Director and acknowledged his right and freedom as a film-maker to create whatever he wishes. Mr Abu Wael pointed out that it was not he who chose the movie for the festival and could not be held accountable for any misrepresentation of subject. He was nonetheless happy to take part and collaborate. 

He also humbly explained that his Palestinian identity does not omit the fact that he is firstly and above all, human, and wants to express his emotions in his own way without having to address the political issues of his country.

“'Israel is so powerful, they control everything, the land, the water, the life of the Palestinians...for me, the only way to succeed is through art,” said Director Tawfik Abu Wael.

There is perhaps a fine line between artistic expression and political representation in the eyes of those who live in ongoing political conflict, where the two of them are merged and co-exist almost interchangeably. Yet it does not necessarily mean they cannot exist independent of each other. 

Such a festival can clearly demonstrate that Palestinian identity is not only defined by its political struggle, it is in fact very much alive and present outside of this context. It is this strong, deep-rooted identity which makes the political struggle all the more meaningful—a crucial, encouraging fact to remember.



Video by Laurent Vinckier.

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