Five films to watch at Reel Palestine 2023, from Wedding in Galilee to Foragers

Annual festival will be running between Friday and February 5

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Reel Palestine is returning to Cinema Akil for its ninth iteration, with a programme that features screenings, workshops, conversations with filmmakers as well as a souk.

The event starts on Friday and runs until February 5. The festival will highlight 18 feature films and shorts from established and up-and-coming filmmakers.

Founded by a group of friends in Dubai in 2014, Reel Palestine is a non-profit, volunteer organisation that launched its first pop-up festival in January 2015 with the aim of showing Palestinian culture and tenacity through film, immersing viewers in the emotional, difficult and inspirational moments that occur in daily Palestinian life.

This year, Reel Palestine will also pay tribute to Michel Khleifi, a luminary of Palestinian cinema and the filmmaker behind Wedding in Galilee, Fertile Memory and Tale of the Three Jewels, which is the first feature film to be shot entirely on the Gaza Strip.

The festival also features two robust short film programmes, Palestinian Quotidien and Remembrance, which will be running in tandem with the Quoz Arts Fest. A souk will also be held on the two weekends of the festival, presenting Palestinian handiworks and goods from 36 vendors.

“We are proud to dedicate our platform to narrate Palestine’s unspoken stories through cinema and do our bit in giving international exposure to regional films, here in the multicultural land of the UAE,” a representative for Cinema Akil said.

“Just like every year, the stories depicted in this edition of Reel Palestine will be sure to touch hearts and reinforce the unity of Dubai’s diverse cultural heritage that traverses geographic and cultural boundaries.”

From classics of Palestinian cinema to contemporary festival favourites, we take a look at five feature films to watch at this year’s Reel Palestine.

Mediterranean Fever

The festival will open with Mediterranean Fever by Maha Haj. The dramedy was Palestine's official submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. It tells the story of Waleed, a man aged 40 suffering from depression, who dreams of becoming a professional writer. He develops a bond with his neighbour, a small-time crook, with an ulterior motive in mind and soon becomes embroiled in a series of unexpected and dark encounters.

The film will be shown at 7pm on Friday and again on February 1. A talk with Haj is also scheduled for February 4.

Wedding in Galilee

Wedding in Galilee by Khleifi will be the second film to screen on opening night. The 1987 classic tells the story of a Palestinian elder in a village under Israeli military rule seeking permission to hold a wedding that will go past curfew. A commander of the Israeli army agrees on the condition that he and his officers be received as guests of honour at the wedding.

The film will be shown at 9.30pm on Friday and again at 7pm on January 31.

Foragers

The 2022 film by Jumana Manna moves between fiction, documentary and archival footage. Replete with wry humour, the story revolves around the practice of foraging for wild edible plants in Palestine and the effect Israeli nature laws have on the age-old custom.

Foragers was named the special mention winner of the Harrell Award for Best Documentary Feature at last year's Camden International Film Festival. Manna also won the Green Dox award at Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival in August.

The film will be screened at 7pm on Saturday, followed by a Q&A session with Manna. It will show again at 9.30pm on January 31 and in an outdoor screening at 8pm on February 1.

Sarura

The documentary by Nicola Zambelli is set in the gates of the Negev desert and tells the story of the Youth of Sumud, a group of teenage Palestinians who rely on their cameras and non-violent tactics to fight against Israeli military occupation. The youth are trying to reclaim the ancient cave village of Sarura that was stolen from their families.

The village, located in the south of the West Bank, was abandoned as a result of persistent attacks by settlers from the outposts of Havat Ma'on and Avigayil.

Sarura will be shown at 7pm on Sunday and Monday with a Q&A session with Zambelli scheduled after both screenings.

Tale of the Three Jewels

Tale of the Three Jewels is the first feature film to be shot entirely in the Gaza Strip. Photo: Reel Palestine

Shot in 1994 in the Gaza Strip, Tale of the Three Jewels is a love story told amid conflict. The film, directed by Khleifi, follows Yussef, a Palestinian boy aged 12 living with his mother and sister, while his father is in prison and his brother is on the run from the Israeli army.

Often leaving the refugee camp to explore the countryside, Yussef is hunting for birds when he meets Aida, a young girl who presents a challenge to him and sends him on a dangerous adventure.

Tale of the Three Jewels will be shown at 9pm on Saturday and at 7pm on February 2.

Updated: January 25, 2023, 1:18 PM