by Ellen Lawrence-Clery, student at University of Manchester
LOVE AND DESIRE UNDER OCCUPATION AND DISPOSSESSION
Love of all kinds is put to the test as Palestinians attempt to maintain normalcy and intimacy while living under occupation and siege in the screening Love and Desire in Palestine. Screened in Cardiff, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester, the programme curated by Cinema Palestino and Creative Interruptions.com was released to roughly coincide with Valentine’s Day. The three works by Palestinian filmmakers reveal what are day to day realities for the people of their country, but remain largely unknown to the rest of the world.
Bonbonné is an unexpected portrait of love behind bars, as a Palestinian couple resort to an unusual contraception method during the husband’s incarceration in an Israeli prison. Director Rakan Miyasi highlights the de-humanising effects of imprisonment as the couple are strip searched or made to take communal showers, being touched and seen by fellow prisoners and Israeli guards instead of each other. In a particularly elegant piece of camerawork, the couple talk separated by a glass screen, their ghostly reflections superimposed onto each other’s faces.
Condom Lead has no dialogue and all takes place in one apartment, the smooth camera movements and orderly lines of the set setting a harsh contrast to the violence heard off screen. Brothers Mohammed and Ahmad Abou Nasser explore a couple’s search for intimacy in the midst of violence. Each time that the sounds of gunfire and bombing interrupt them the husband blows the unused condom into a balloon for their small child to play with. As the days of conflict wear on their lost moments of intimacy pile up in corners and float about the apartment, nothing but air.
Gaza calling, the most emotionally impactful of the films, tells the story of two young men struggling to reunite with their families after being separated by the Israeli restrictions on travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Nahed Awad pays particular attention to the systems of bureaucracy used to hold people in limbo, as the audience watches endless footage of documents being moved from location to location, achieving nothing. As someone who knew only a moderate amount about the Israeli/Palestine conflict going into the cinema, this film was the most eye-opening about the struggles of daily life living under the Occupation. The bureaucratic system that controls their movement is described by director Awad in the Q & A as ‘psychological torture’, and the term rings true, as Hekmet spends years trying to obtain a visa for her son to reunite with her in Ramallah, only to be constantly disappointed. Although the editing is at times confusing, as the frequent cuts between the young men and their families were somewhat difficult to follow, Gaza Calling paints a compelling and much needed picture of daily life under the Occupation.
Bonbonné and Gaza Calling include many shots of the beautiful Palestinian countryside as the characters travel through it, the lovely rolling hills adding insult to the fact that so many people cannot return to this place that is their homeland. In Gaza Calling one of Mustafa’s sisters complains that the media prefers to show Palestinians as victims not people, focusing on the parts of Gaza which are most destroyed. As the impasse in Palestine continues, these films at least do something to right that wrong.
After the screening at HOME in Manchester the audience had a chance to write postcards to young people in Gaza – a token of love in a hostile world.
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