Now in its 10th year, the Palestinian Film Festival Australia runs from 24 October to 10 November in most state and territory capitals (sorry, Adelaide and Darwin, you are missing out on this one). It showcases a diverse selection of titles from Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora, and includes dramatic features, documentaries and short films from Iraq, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, the UK and even Australia. In the words of its organisers, “The Festival is part of an emerging Palestinian film industry working to facilitate Palestinian cultural output while strengthening social and economic ties between Palestine and Australia, and other parts of the world.” It’s a noble intention and it shows that Palestinian filmmakers are on a par with their peers from countries that are less ham-strung by political and physical constraints.
The centrepiece is Elia Suleiman’s It Must Be Heaven, with Gael Garcia Bernal, and it was awarded a Special Mention at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. A French, Qatari, German, Canadian, Turkish and Palestinian co-pro, it’s a subversive comedy that focuses on the director himself as he travels from Nazareth to Paris, New York and Montreal to try and raise money for “a comedy about peace in the Middle East” (is this the resulting film?). As he does so, Suleiman silently seeks an answer to the perennial question, ‘where is home?’ It’s a dead-pan, intriguing take on identity, nationalism and the pervasiveness of global surveillance.
Another highlight is the Syrian documentary For Sama, in which the filmmaker records her life over five years during the popular uprising in Aleppo against the government of Bashar al-Assad, during which time she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to a daughter, Sama, all while living in a state of war and on-going bombardment.
From Australia comes Partho Sen-Gupta’s Slam, a drama about a hijab-wearing slam poet and activist who suddenly goes missing in Sydney’s western suburbs. It’s a gripping story that examines issues surrounding immigration and Islamophobia in this country and the role the media plays in highlighting cultural difference and racism. It’s an important and entertaining film from a writer/director who’s a relatively recent immigrant to Australia himself, so it stems from a place of self-knowledge and absolute awareness of the subject.
For full details of the 2019 Palestinian Film Festival, click here.