For Cultural Purposes Only


In an age dominated by the moving image what would it feel like to never see an image of the place that you came from?


Credits

A film by Sarah Wood
Illustration Woodrow Phoenix
Animation Kate Anderson
Cartography Simon Deeves
Photography Ruanne Abou-Rahme
Soundtrack Basel Abbas
Research Kate Daniels
Camera Campbell
Editor Lucy Harris


Synopses

An experimental film essay investigating the cultural importance of cinema.

In an age dominated by the moving image what would it feel like to never see an image of the place that you came from?

The Palestinian Film Archive contained over 100 films showing the daily life and struggle of the Palestinian people. It was lost in the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982. Here interviewees describe from memory key moments from the history of Palestinian cinema. These scenes are drawn and animated. Where film survives, the artistís impressions are corroborated. This is a film about reconstruction and the idea that cinema is an expression of cultural identity - that cinema fuels memory.


Technical information

Interviewees describe from memory scenes from the history of Palestinian cinema. An artist interprets the memory and draws what he hears. His drawings stand either for the original where the film is lost, or are corroborated by film imagery where the original film survives.

These actions are interspersed with the story of the lost Palestinian Film Archive.


Full credits

A film by Sarah Wood
Illustration Woodrow Phoenix
Animation Kate Anderson
Photography Ruanne Abou-Rahme
Cartography Simon Deeves
Soundtrack Basel Abbas
Editor Lucy Harris
Research Kate Daniels
Camera Campbell
Online Editor Sue Giovanni
Sound Andy Coles


Extract from Children Nevertheless © Khadijeh Habashneh

Extract from Far From the Homeland © Kais Al-Zubaidi

Extract from Leaving Jerusalem by Railway (Louis Lumiere, 1897), Courtesy of the Prelinger Archive, (www.archive.org)

Extract from Screen Traveller: Damscus and Jerusalem (1926), Courtesy of the Prelinger Archive, (www.archive.org)

Text - Mustafa Abu Ali, Palestinian Cinema Group Manifesto, Edward Said

Title - Courtesy of Annemarie Jacir taken from her essay of the same name

Executive Producers Jacqui Davies & Gary Thomas

Thank you:
Mustafa Abu Ali, Abigail Addison, Sonia Bridge, Nick Denes, Nicky Haire, Bridget Hannigan, Shadia Nasralla, Idit Nathan, On Sight, Judy Price, Ali Smith


Update February 2009: Drawing reality

Iím sitting indoors, looking out of the window at the whited-out world. A sudden snowfall has shocked Britain to a standstill. Everyoneís complaining. Trains donít work, buses donít work, things are going wrong. Commentators are scandalized on television as itís revealed that Britain is running out of salt to grit the roads. More salt will have to be mined! Standstill!

Outside the snow world looks still and calm. Sound is muffled by the snow. Outside sounds like a thud. The language of TV panic seems entirely at odds with this stillness.

Itís only a few weeks ago since I watched Tzipi Livni announce on TV that Israel was to 'change the reality' of Gaza. As suddenly as this snowfall altered Britain, the lives and landscape of Gaza were altered by military action. Reality was 'changed'. The snow has now nudged Gaza off the headlines. TV landscape has been whited out too.

But I canít stop thinking about Livniís phrase. Quite apart from its Nineteen Eighty-Four connotations, Iím thinking about how this is possible. How can we 'change reality'? As individuals do we have agency and more, the ability to change reality? Or are we also passive, subject to changes of reality? Is it either/or? Can we have both?

Iím looking at the perfect footsteps people have made in the snow. Snow changed the reality of the landscape and then the footsteps changed it again. It reminds me of drawing. Iíve always been especially interested by cartoon art because of the primitive instinct to pick up a pencil and represent. Before words, before rhythm, a mark is the simplest thing we can make to change our reality. Iím thinking of the power of making a mark and how dangerous, and powerful, this is when the mark gathers significance.

---

Naji al-Ali was shot in London in July 1987 a few months before the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada. He was working for the Kuwait newspaper Al-Qabas and was then the most famous (and best paid) cartoonist in the Middle East. A Palestinian refugee, he had been forced as a child to flee his Galilee village in the 1948 war and grew up in a refugee camp in south Lebanon. His drawings brought him on a long journey via Beirut and Kuwait, finally to London. His deceptively simple (and prolific) drawings targeted Arab governments, Iran, America and, of course, Israel. His death has never been explained but his critiques had brought him enemies in many governments.

Iím thinking of his most famous cartoon creation Hanzala. A ten year old refugee boy (al-Ali was ten when he left Palestine) who always looks away from the viewer, who frames the world with his unseen gaze. The figure of Hanzala has a complex effect. He has no face, no identity. This is his lack. But he also has mystery, negative capability. A Hanzala cartoon powerfully asks the viewer to look with his eyes. He bears witness; he asks the viewer to accompany him. He is always on the front line between the viewer and the subject of the cartoon, a mediator between the viewerís reality and his reality. His presence makes you aware that there are always two realities. His child status suggests he is always subject to realityís 'changes'.

----

I hear from my friend in Ramallah. There is a city wide clean up of graffiti. Drawings, it would seem, are potent. White-out.


Sarah Wood

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