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Palestine: Gaza's Culture Of Resistance

The first feature film produced by Hamas had its premiere in Gaza on August 1, part of an attempt by the movement to win support through cultural initiatives, building a “culture of resistance“. In the same week, a play about filmmaking opened in Gaza. Bloggers have attended both, and give us their opinions.

Lina Al Sharif, who blogs at 360 km2 of chaos, attended the premiere of the film Imad Aqil:

Shootings, a car chase and a story of a hero, “Imad Aqil” is the first movie to come from Gaza. The 2 hour picture opened on August the first in Rashad Al-Shawa cultural center in Gaza city. It’s written by Mahmoud Al-Zahar, who is a prominent Hamas leader in Gaza, directed by Majid Jindiya, and produced by Al-Aqsa media network. The movie’s cost is about 120,000 dollars according to Hamas’ daily paper Al-Resala. The film was mainly shot in Asda’ media production city which is placed in the 2005 evacuated ex-Israeli settlements. And it was struck in the recent war.

I saw the promotional poster of the movie before its opening; I felt surprised to be having a home-made movie given the harsh situation in Gaza. Only yesterday, two of my friends and I bought the 10 shekel tickets and went to see the movie of this legendary Palestinian hero.

Lina tells us the story:

The movie is based on the biography of the freedom fighter Imad Aqil. It started with a scene of the midwife and her husband heading to the Aqils house to deliver the future hero, who was born on June the 19th 1971 in Jabaliya camp. Then, the audience is moved to his childhood and then his teenage in the camp, where the Palestinians were constantly subjected to random arrests and beating by the Israeli patrols. In 1988, the Palestinian first Intifada broke out as well as Hamas was formally launched as an Islamic Liberation movement. In the same year, Imad Aqil was arrested for engaging in the Intifada and Hamas’ activities. He spent 18 months in prison. After his release, he took a leading role in the armed struggle against the Israeli army in Gaza. He was dubbed by the Israelis as “the man with seven souls”. The life of the Qasam brigades fighter ended with his assassination in 1993 by the Israeli army with the help of a Palestinian traitor.

Lina’s opinion of the film?

It’s not the best movie I have seen, but it’s a movie from Gaza. Putting in consideration all the circumstances, the resources and facilities that are needed to produce a movie with such plot; the outcome is relatively good given the situation and the siege which has been imposed on Gaza for almost two and a half years now. The actors and the actresses are all from Gaza. Sadly, the same Resala report mentioned that four of the actors were actually killed in the recent war on Gaza. There were some troubles in the sound mixing; some of the dialogue was not audible along with the sound effect. Moreover, the performance of the actors was not that good. Yet, the whole outcome must be appreciated as it came amid hard times Gaza is going through.

At the blog In Gaza (also posted at The Electronic Intifada), Canadian Eva Bartlett reports on a play about filmmaking:

“Don’t people in Gaza love to see films like people anywhere?” aspiring filmmaker Hossam Abdel Latif asks. His wife, the more practical Souad, retorts, “Someone who can’t afford to eat is going to go to the cinema?”

The question of the arts in times of siege and occupation is one of the main themes in Gaza’s newest theatre production, Film Cinema, which opened on 4 August in Gaza City. A stage buried in film negatives, and adorned with a lone plump teddy bear, sets the scene of the three-person play.

“I’m Hossam Abdel Latif, and I want to make a film,” the would-be film director repeatedly begins, facing his running video camera, only to be repeatedly interrupted.

Eva describes the plot:

The plot is simple — a filmmaker and the challenges he faces — but is embroiled with all that is life in occupied Palestine, making an amusing, and at times soberingly real, hour of theatre. Film Cinema recalls the last Israeli massacre in Gaza — but without reference to a specific time, it could be any of Israel’s military invasions of Gaza — and addresses the dreams and pressures Palestinians experience under the oppressive siege of Gaza. At the same time, the play shares the universal realities of marital spats and individual desires.

She continues:

Film Cinema is the second theatre event this summer in Gaza, and more are in the making.

Theater-goers also seek relief in the arts or a semblance of “normality” in Gaza. The packed audience and its enthusiastic participation demonstrate how thirsty Palestinians in Gaza are for the arts, for a cathartic outlet.

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