Film Fest Highlights Palestinian Narrative
BY: Ameera David/Contributing Writer
Lighting up Ann Arbor’s most exclusive venues this weekend is the highly anticipated Palestine Film Festival—with its official opening tonight at the historic Michigan Theater. Now, in its second year, the film fest hopes to entertain a wider audience, while further permeating Ann Arbor’s budding cultural landscape.
This year, viewers will have the chance to see three feature length films and six shorts including Pomegranates and Myrrh; Amreeka; Neighbors; Thorns and Silk; Make a Wish; Diploma; Gaza’s Winter; and Welcome to Hebron. Rounding out the festival and making its Michigan debut is Ajami, a 2010 Oscar nominated film.
The critically acclaimed Ajami was co-directed by Scandar Copti, an Israeli Palestinian seeking to illustrate the clashes of his highly polarized hometown, Jaffa. Ajami focuses on the conflicts and alliances amongst Israeli Arabs and Jews, Arab Christians and Muslims, as well as West Bank Palestinians and Bedouins.
Ajami is just one in a string of new films seeking to attract a large and diverse audience to the typically unseen Palestinian narrative. “Anyone who comes to the film festival will get to see new, exciting, and courageous films that they most likely otherwise would not get a chance to see,” says founder and organizer, Hena Ashraf.
Last year, as a senior at the University of Michigan, Ashraf established the film festival because she felt film would be the best conduit for communicating the true Palestinian story. “These are independent films from the perspective of Palestinians, and so we provide refreshing programming that differs greatly from the mainstream and skewed Hollywood perspective,” she says.
Even for those who are simply intrigued by good cinema, the festival has something to offer. “We have films with juicy love triangles, films about gang violence and the drug trade, and films with characters to fall in love with. Even the attendee who is not necessarily interested in Palestine or the conflict will find the festival entertaining” says fellow organizer, Bana Sakr.
This year, unlike last, the film festival is coordinating with the University of Michigan’s annual Arab Xpressions show for a dual night, Friday, in which audience members will have the opportunity to see a few short films as well as experience Arabic artistry through stand up comedy, spoken word poetry, and traditional folk dancing.
With over 1000 people in attendance at last year’s inaugural festival, the organizers are hopeful for an even larger turnout this year— a reasonable expectation considering the show’s blend of appealing storylines, characters, and genres. Between the stimulating films and Friday night’s cultural presentation, the festival will seemingly have a little something for everyone.