Palestinian films that currently reach the UK public are shown largely in art house cinemas or at venues organised by Palestine solidarity activists. In the political margins, they noneth
eless have potential to show Palestinian perspectives, to disrupt some of the deeply entrenched representations of the Arab world. They can contest the Middle East that is portrayed as immersed in an endless cycle of violence, fuelled by religious fanaticism, which serves as a self-validating image for the Western liberal consensus. Whether the potential of that contestation will be realised will depend not merely on what appears on the screen but on what the spectators in Britain are prepared to see in the films.
Goddard’s ironic comment that the Palestinians have been assigned to documentaries and the Israelis to fiction was made in 2004. By then it was no longer true, although his comment reflects the lack of circulation that Palestinian Cinema is able to achieve within cinemas across Europe, which creates the impression of Palestinian representation as residing in documentary.
Palestinian cinema is still in search of the spectators who can be interlocutors in a politics that will not merely interrupt, an act which permits a measure of acknowledgement, but disrupt: break the political consensus in the imperial heartlands to build effective forms of solidarity. The images that subvert, that can create new forms of perceptions and new forms of interpretations (Ranciere, The Politics of Aesthetics, p.80) require spectators who are open to appropriating them.
Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange and Co-Investigator Dr Anandi Ramamurthy of Sheffield Hallam University have organised a series of screenings with discussions to explore ways in which a variety of audiences engage with films produced by Palestinians in the UK, as well as ways to build audiences for Palestinian Cinema through networking with independent Cinemas as part of the research.
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