by Anandi Ramamurthy
In 1982 The Palestine Film Unit archive was destroyed and its contents stolen during the Israeli invasion of Beirut. It is now known that the Israeli military seized it. Access is controlled by the military and denied to Palestinians. As part of the Creative Interruptions project which explores arts c expressions of disenfranchised communities that challenge power, researchers at Sheffield Hallam University have participated in the work of digitising and restoring Palestinian films from the 1970s and the early 1980s. Cultural genocide has ‘a direct impact on [a] people’s capacity to stay alive’ (Wolfe 2006). The restoration of five films marks an important retrieval of Palestinian revolutionary cinema.
We therefore view this recovery as an ‘interruptive’ act. We hope that this project supports the wider endeavour to restore Palestinian cultural memory in the face of Israel’s systematic destruction of Palestinian cultural artefacts since 1948. In terms of Palestinian cinema, it has been left to individual artists and filmmakers to retrieve and restore such films from scattered locations across the world. The films we have restored were found in private collections, held by filmmakers families, treasured belongings that have been inaccessible to wider society. Filmmaker Azza El Hassan found two films relating to Hani Jawharieh in his family home. Ismail Shammout’s family had located two of his films amongst his personal materials. Filmmaker Kassem Hawal had kept a copy of Palestinian Identity.
We aim to return these films to Palestinian archives as well as to share them with an international public. We hope by doing so to enable a deeper understanding of Palestinian cinema history and visuality including its revolutionary era. The collection works together to enhance our understanding of the ways in which the filmmakers of the period produced a cinema in which the preservation and development of culture and social identity was at the heart of the movement.
These five films all emphasise the produc on of culture. Zaharat Al Madain highlights the symbol- ic role of the city of Jerusalem, Pales ne In the Eye pays homage to the lmmaker Hani Jawha- reih, Ismail Shammout’s lms use music and pain ng to narrate history and the aims of the libera on movement, and nally Pales nian Iden- ty highlights the intellectual ideas that in u- enced the PLO’s Arts and Culture Unit and gives witness to the diversity of its cultural produc ons in the face of se ler colonialism.
The collection also highlights the range of ways in which films were produced during this period: in collaboration with public funded broadcasters in the Arab region; independently through the Palestine Film Unit; as well as in collaboration with progressive filmmakers in the Arab world to cement an alternative Arab Cinema in which the cause of Palestine was embedded at its heart.
Check the whole programme below or download it here: PROGRAMME NOTES archive films