WEEKEND FILM FESTS: The Toronto Palestinian Film Festival & Ottawa’s One World Film Festival

One World Film Festival opens at the Library & Archives this weekend in Ottawa. 

This weekend whether you are in the Capital of Ontario or the Capital of Canada, both cities are hosting independent film festivals with programming that offers critique to current issues, like Oil and Occupation as well as Occupation because of Oil.

In Ottawa the One World Film Festival is in it’s 25th year. It runs from Thursday September 25th to Saturday, September 27th.

THURSDAY: Above All Else @ 6:30 pm

(Includes Panel Discussion with filmmakers John Fiege and Anita Grabowski and Ben Powless of Ecology Ottawa after screening)

“an intimate portrait of a group of landowners and activists in East Texas who tried to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a $7 billion dollar project slated to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. They risk financial ruin, personal safety, and the security of their families as they attempt to protect their land and defend their rights. The film is both an exploration of the human spirit and a window into how social change happens in America.” More info…

FRIDAY: Virunga @ 6:30 pm (Includes Panel Discussion after the screening)

“Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga is a UNESCO world heritage site, and the last natural habitat for the endangered mountain gorilla. None of that will stop the business interests and rebel insurgencies lurking at the park’s doorstep. Orlando von Einsiedel pairs gorgeous natural scenes from Virunga with riveting footage of the Congolese crisis, raising an ardent call for conservation as a vital human enterprise. Along the way, he spotlights the incredibly dangerous work that is often required to safeguard the environment.” More info…

SATURDAY: Watchers of the Sky @ 6:00 pm & On The Side of the Road @ 8:45 pm

WATCHERS OF THE SKY interweaves four stories of remarkable courage, compassion, and determination, while setting out to uncover the forgotten life of Raphael Lemkin – the man who created the word “genocide,” and believed the law could protect the world from mass atrocities. Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem From Hell, WATCHERS OF THE SKY takes you on a provocative journey from Nuremberg to The Hague, from Bosnia to Darfur, from criminality to justice, and from apathy to action.” More info…

&

“Former West Bank settler Lia Tarachansky looks at Israelis’ collective amnesia of the fateful events of 1948 when the state of Israel was born and most of the Palestinians became refugees. She follows the transformation of Israeli veterans trying uncover their denial of the war that changed the region forever. Tarachansky then turns the camera on herself and travels back to her settlement where that historical erasure gave birth to a new generation, blind and isolated from its surroundings. Attempting to shed a light on the country’s biggest taboo, she is met with outrage and violence.” More info…

Full schedule on One World Film Festival’s website.

All screenings take place at the Library & Archives, Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa. View map.

black stroke

The Toronto Palestinian Film Festival opens this Saturday in Toronto. 

The Toronto Palestinian Film Festival (TPFF) runs from Saturday, September 27th to Friday, October 3rd (so in theory, you could attend both!)

Sunday includes a screening of Omar, one of my favourite movies of 2013. Along with dramas and shorts by Palestinian filmmakers, the festival also includes films about Palestine from the perspective of non-Palestinians. One example is Village Under the Forest.

“The Village Under the Forest explores the hidden remains of the destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya, which lies under South Africa Forest. During the 1948 Nabka, more than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed. The Jewish National Fund raised money from around the world under the guise of ‘greening the desert’ and built forests and parks named after different countries on the remains of these villages in an attempt to erase their dark history. Writer/narrator Heidi Grunebaum revisits South Africa Forest, the forest she helped finance with the pennies she collected as a child twenty year ago. Using the forest and the ruins of Lubya as representative of a much wider process, this compelling film explores central themes of the Nakba – forced exile, erasure of memory, creating ‘facts on the ground’, and the Palestinian Right of Return.” More info…

“Making its debut at TIFF 2013, Giraffada is a light-hearted drama inspired by a true story. Ziad, a ten-year-old boy from the West Bank, spends all his free time at the Qalqilya zoo where his father Yacine (Saleh Bakri) works as the zoo’s veterinarian. In particular, Ziad has a special bond with the zoo’s two giraffes who he helps care for. Yacine, recently widowed, is determined to preserve the zoo as a haven for animals and for the local children who play there, temporarily escaping the hardships under occupation. One night, after an air strike on the city, one of Ziad’s beloved giraffes dies. The surviving giraffe stops eating due to the loss of her mate. Yacine is determined to save her by bringing in a new giraffe but the only zoo that can help him is in Tel Aviv. Yacine and Ziad are committed to doing whatever it takes to save their giraffe, even if it means breaking the law. Giraffada, which stars Mohammad Bakri (In Attendance), is a unique portrayal of childhood under occupation.”

Last week at Beit Zatoun TPFF hosted a talk on New Directions in Indigenous Cinema with Jesse Wente (Director of Film Programmes & curator of TIFF’s 2012 program First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition) and Rasha Salti (TIFF Programmer for African and Middle Eastern Cinema). Rasha discussed the historical and contemporary context of Palestinian cinema. There is a lot to be learned! The documentary Cinema Palestine offers more insight.

“Cinema Palestine is a poetic documentary which explores the life and work of multiple generations of Palestinian filmmakers and media artists. Based on in-depth interviews with a wide range of Palestinian artists living in the Middle East, as well as North American and Europe, the film documents the emergence of a Palestinian narrative through film, the relevance of film to the Palestinian national struggle and the relationship between art, personal experience and politics in one of the most contested landscapes in the world. The film features interviews with numerous filmmakers screened at TPFF including: Annemarie Jacir, Rashid Masharawi, Mohammad Bakri, Najwa Najjar, Hany Abu-Asad, Nasri Hajjaj and Mai Masri. A post-Screening Panel featuring Tim Schwab, Mohammad Bakri and Mais Darwazah will follow the film, with our guests further exploring the role of Palestinian cinema in the emergence of the Palestinian narrative.”

Screenings for the TPFF take place at TIFF and the AGO’s Jackman Hall. For full schedule details click here.

Also find TPFF info on Facebook and Twitter.

 

OMAR: Facts Are Stranger Than Fiction

Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad succeeds again at telling an important story.

Mark Twain said that “truth is stranger than fiction” because “fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t” which makes the film Omar, the fictional account of three childhoods friends, even more devastating as this fiction is the plausible reality of those living today in occupied Palestine.

Palestinian Director Hany Abu-Assad’s film is a thriller and a love story. The movie twists and turns as quickly as the main character Omar runs through the narrow passageways of the Nablus medina to escape Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. Amjad, one of the childhood friends, asks the others “Do you know how they catch monkeys in Africa?” By getting them addicted to sugar cubes. Amjad describes how they pour the sweetness into a hole just large enough for the monkey to stick his hand into but small enough he cannot pull out when the hunters descend. Trapped the monkey still clings to the cubes.

The sweetness of Omar’s love for his best friend Tarek’s sister is what keeps bringing him back to the hole eventually trapping him into the Mossad’s madness that turns friend against friend and lover against lover. There is no exit the characters can take for this story to end positively.

Poster for Israeli Apartheid Week with occupation wall and minaret in background

Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 and how you can help support the people of Palestine.

Last weekend as part of the Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 a group of poets gathered at Ryerson University in Toronto for Performances of Indigenous Resistance: Palestine to Turtle Island. What was witnessed in the recited words was the truth of oppression – that no matter its location the impact is echoed.

Writer Yasmine Haj:

“I do not want to appropriate resistance and neither do you. But stories, poetry, music, art, farming, dancing, singing, and laughter are beautiful because they baffle us with unanswered questions. Because they fumble with the idea of stability and fragility. Because they allow us to reconnect with each other and imagine a collective space of meeting. They help us see Haifa connected to Cairo and Beirut and help us see Turtle Island in its colourful past, deconstructing the grey buildings that occupy its present.”

Many must feel like the monkey trapped with his hand in the hole but perhaps a love story for land that unites a global movement for social justice may be the inspired sweetness to collectively dream a way out.

For more on Israeli Apartheid Week visit their website www.apartheidweek.org, Facebook Page and follow on twitter @ApartheidWeek & #ApartheidWeek.

Other groups and organizations working towards resolution for a free Palestine:

Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

Beit Zatoun

Bottle of olive oil in foreground with CN Tower and skyscrapers in background Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

You can purchase Zatoun Olive Oil (truly the best olive oil in my opinion!!!) produced by a collective in Palestine at Beit Zatoun’s Toronto location in Mirvish Village – 612 Markham St. (1 minute from Bathurst subway stop on Bloor line, Markham St. exit)

“Proceeds are used to directly benefit Palestinian farmers and children living in occupied Palestine and to create awareness for peace in Palestine…Zatoun helps to create a context based in ordinary everyday life to view and discuss the situation in Palestine-Israel.”

In Ottawa Omar will be screening at the Bytowne Cinema Ottawa this week during the following times:

Mon, Mar 17, 4:45pm
Mon, Mar 17, 6:55pm
Tue, Mar 18, 9:10pm
Wed, Mar 19, 7:00pm
Thu, Mar 20, 4:45pm

Visit Bytowne Cinema’s website for full details.

FYI – Boycott Sabra Hummus. More information on Huff Po article talking about Sabra’s CEO Ronen Zohar.

“The protesters make noise, but they make noise to themselves,” he said. “It doesn’t have any influence on our business.”

Let’s make him eat his own hummus words!