Cash-strapped Gaza Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival lives on for another year

Fittingly, a screening of the documentary, 'Gaza', opened the 2019 event

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In 2015, pictures of a bright, 60-metre red carpet cutting through swathes of destroyed buildings went viral – as the inaugural Gaza Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival announced itself to the world. This year, a 100-metre red carpet was rolled out for the event; perhaps because it almost didn't happen.

An international fundraising campaign and the dogged work of local organisers has allowed Gaza's Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival to live on for another year.

The opening ceremony for the fifth event of the annual film festival was triumphantly held last night in Gaza City. A 100-metre red carpet was rolled out for the occasion, creating a striking scene as the vivid red cut a swath through the war-torn city.

This year, the festival will show 45 human rights-themed films from across the world. Screenings will take place in Gaza, as well as in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The red carpet faced seemingly insurmountable odds to be held this year.

Palestinians watch a film during the opening ceremony of the Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival in Gaza-Karama Palestine, in front of the abandoned Cinema Amer building in Gaza City, on December 4, 2019. The festival's 5th edition takes place between December 4 and 11, and will show a selection of 45 human rights-themed films in the Gaza Strip as well as in the West Bank and Jerusalem. / AFP / MAHMUD HAMS

Festival director Khalil al-Mozayen told The National in June that organisers were unable to come up with the funds to hold it.

“Conditions in Gaza are always difficult, but specifically this year, the economic crisis caused by the rift between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is worsening day by day," he said.

"Salaries are no longer paid to employees and almost all forms of support for cultural activities have stopped," he said.

A public fundraising campaign was then launched, aiming to raise £18,500 (Dh86,000) so the event could be reinstated.

In June, in a heart-warming case of a tale coming full circle, a film-making team currently on the festival circuit for a documentary about Gaza donated the proceeds of an award win to the film festival.

Gaza, the documentary, won the inaugural Pull Focus Award for best new Irish documentary at the Docs Ireland film festival, held in Belfast. Irish directors Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell, and producer Brendan J Byrne, immediately handed over their £2,500 (Dh11,600) prize, and launched a public fundraising campaign soon after. Fittingly, it was a screening of this documentary that opened the film festival last night.

"The decision to donate the money to the Gaza Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival was a unanimous one that we made immediately, the morning after winning the award," Byrne told The National at the time.

"When news came through that we had won the prize money it seemed the obvious thing to do. Obviously as filmmakers we have become very passionate about Gaza and its people, and we've had such a powerful experience being there and spending time with people and recording their lives that we've made a commitment to the place and it's gone into our blood."