Female perspective and sweet tea at Palestinian film festival

December 2008 -

"The only annual festival in the Arab world that focuses on female film makers." That is how Shashat describes its film event. From 1 November through 7 December 2008, the fourth Shashat Women's Film Festival in Palestine is being held.. Over the entire West Bank, the festival is organising workshops and debates while showing productions made by Palestinian, Arab and international film makers at universities and cultural institutions.


Still: Take me home. Directed and produced by Mais Darwazah

Also on Friday, 21 November 2008 in the Peace Center in Bethlehem. Situated between the Church of the Nativity and the Mosque of Omar, the centre has a large modern film theatre. Most of the seats, however, remained empty. A few foreign visitors and a couple of elderly Palestinians are waiting for the film to start as the Muezzin calls followers to the mosque for evening prayers. "Every seat is occupied when we have action films or comedies", says Rania Malki, who works at Peace Center and the Women's Film Festival. "The public for films of this type is much smaller."

And yet Rania believes the festival is important: "This event gives us an opportunity to show people that we can also make films. It is good to devote attention to what women achieve, because this is often underexposed, especially in Arab countries. Women do have their own perspective." Just what is that perspective? "Women highlight entirely different issues and often portray other women's lives", says Rania.

On this evening, Sami goes looking for his biological father in the Danish film Family, by the directing duo Phie Ambo and Sami Saif. Like Family, other films at the festival are documentaries: from a short film on East Jerusalem to a portrait of one of the female founders of The Arab Nationalist Movement. Cookies are served after the showing, and while Rania serves tea, she adds a few heaping teaspoons of sugar. "A special film", the audience members comment while sipping the sweet tea.