Palestine Film Festival helps raise funds for medical aid amid coronavirus pandemic

Ave Maria uses wry humour to demonstrate the differences between religious groups

A still from the motion picture, 'Sufair' AKA 'Yellow Mums'.

As part of a weekly series during the coronavirus crisis, the Palestine Film Festival this week showed two Palestinian-made films to raise money Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) during the pandemic.

MAP has been delivering personal protective equipment, hygiene kits, essential medicines and other vital items to Palestinians since the virus broke out. Their work helps the protection of medical workers, the vulnerable, and people living in cramped conditions. They work in Gaza, the West Bank and in refugee camps in Lebanon.

Both screenplays were based around the Christian celebration of Easter in the Holy Land. The first film, Yellow Moms, tells the story of an introverted Palestinian altar boy called Nizar who is bullied by other village children for wearing sandals with socks.

The film starts off with Nizar in church praying to god and staring at the crucifix over the Easter weekend. To win popularity among the kids in the village, he challenges other children to a traditional Easter game of smashing eggs against rivals. The objective is to collect the most bonus eggs.  Nizar sees one boy at the start fill his egg with wax to make it harder to crack and thus win battles against the other children. Nizar copies his idea but prays to God he won’t get found out by the other boys as a fraud. After winning several battles, he faces his final reckoning with a fierce looking boy called Isa, who has the black egg that beats almost everyone. Nizar prays his secret ploy does not get found out, but as each second passes, he ends up questioning his faith more.

The second short film, Ave Maria by Basil Khallil, starts with the striking image of a West Bank check point with a "Danger mines!" sign surrounded by desert. In the middle of the West Bank wilderness, Arab nuns celebrate their daily routine of silence but their prayers are disrupted when a family of religious Israeli settlers crash their car into the convent's wall, severing the head of a Virgin Mary statue while doing so.

Handout of AVE MARIA” Film, the Short Film Competition at Cannes Film Festival, directed by Basil Khalil. Courtesy of MAD Solutions and Quat Media.

NOTE: For Christopher Newbould Story  *** Local Caption ***  al01mr-oscars-still-ave.jpg

More dark comedy ensues, as members of an orthodox Jewish settlement try to avoid using machines in a church during Shabbat but they need to use a phone to call a breakdown service for a crashed car. At the same time, they bicker and begin shouting at each other, until a nun raises her voice and implores them to be respectful in church during their routine of silence.

The comedy continues to play on cultural differences between the religions. The two groups eventually reach a compromise when the nuns allow the Jews to borrow a car  that belonged to a deceased sister, as long as they return it the next day. After one nun uses her mechanic skills to fix the car, stealing an old Israeli woman’s tights in the process, the settlers drive off into the sunset.

With the gift of giving, there’s certainly worse things to do your Easter week then watch these endearing and dark humoured films.