PALESTINEDOCS: FILMS THAT BREAK THE SILENCE
The Holocaust will be understood not so much for the number of victims
as for the magnitude of the silence. And what obsesses me most is the repetition of silence.
Jacobo Timerman, quoted in Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery
Jacobo Timerman, the respected Zionist author of these lines, and author of Prisoner Without A Name, Cell Without a Number (1981), was known for not having stayed silent in the face of human debasement and humiliation in his adopted country of Argentina. Tortured and imprisoned, he eventually managed to migrate to Israel. Remaining true to his daring and outspoken ways, he did not stay silent about injustices he witnessed here. In The Longest War: Israel's Invasion of Lebanon (1982) he wrote: ‘And I'm angry, too, with us, with the Israelis who by exploiting, oppressing, and victimizing them [the Palestinians] made the Jewish people lose their moral tradition, their proper place in history.’
Timerman may have broken the silence and protested early on. But the magnitude of silence about Palestine, thirty plus years on, feels as staggering and repetitious as the original silence that he refers to.
What can one do to break it?
One thing we could do as people who work in transnational film is to present information about the critical mass of films we know of, made internationally, that chronicle the years of basic human rights deprivation and denigration leading to what is happening in Palestine today. We call it A WEB RESOURCE ON FILMS CHRONICLING THE LIFE OF PALESTINIANS IN AND OUTSIDE THE MIDDLE EAST.
Access is this site’s primary intention. It is important to bring together the information about this eminent and yet disparate body of work, then link to the films available on the Internet, and thus enable the integration of these resources in teaching and discussion. We started with a listing of the films that we were familiar with, yet we knew that there must be many more out there, so we thought of this web listing as a beginning. Quite a few colleagues from different countries – many of which are marked by their own traumas and conflict – have already called with information about notable films and resources, and so we are thrilled to receive and add material about documentaries and feature films made in diverse parts of the world about the seemingly endless ordeal of the Palestinians. It is an honor to collect such knowledge, so please do share and keep your e-mails coming in.
The films featured in this resource come from various corners of the world, showing that the concern over Palestine is a truly transnational endeavour. Contributions to this site are equally transnational, coming from friends and colleagues based in a variety of countries. For a number of years now, documentarians from all over travelled to the region and made films about the dangerous and the subtle aspects of life under occupation. Many insightful and sensitive films are made by cineastes based in the Middle East (both Israelis and Arabs), and there are films made by Palestinians who live in the diaspora.
These works reveal how film comes to play a corrective role. Unlike media reports where clear-cut actors must feed into a simplified narrative or ‘warring sides’ and news programmes where concern over Palestine wanes as soon as a shaky ceasefire comes about, film can show the complexity of the situation and the human relationships that make up the fabric of every conflict, and document how people’s lives are affected in continuity.
We particularly cherish the work of those transnational Jewish filmmakers who do not want to cave in to nationalist hysteria, and who recognise that Israel is a multicultural society that can only survive if it begins seeing itself as such. For the time being many of them are promptly labelled ‘traitors’ yet their logical choice is to side against ‘their own’ group, as only such extreme acts can expose the irrationality of an extreme nationalist discourse. It is a difficult stance, but it seems the only way to avoid succumbing to the apartheid-type of thinking, which nonetheless still dominates most political efforts. It is a choice to stand against mass madness and show faith that people can live together next to each other. It was the choice made by legendary filmmakers and writers over the past few decades, in countries like South Africa, Chile, or Serbia; the choice of people like Nadine Gordimer, Patricio Guzmán, or Zelimir Zilnik.
One particularly significant feature of the situation today is the instant on-line access to cinematic material. Previously obscure film rarities now come within reach; a number of documentaries made in faraway lands are now only a click away. The wealth of cinematic databases, the multitude of diaspora-driven web-vaults, the proliferating amount of feature and documentary footage made available by enterprising YouTube-channel owners, and the fresh material streamed via film festival web-sites all profoundly change the landscape and allow us to bring together material in a way that was not possible until very recently. It is, in part, this wealth of instantly accessible material, that makes us undertake this effort with some urgency – why postpone if it is possible to make this resource available for those who would like to delve into it?
The majority of films that we are referring to here are available on-line, be it for free or for a small charge. We believe that this availability is facilitating a particularly significant shift, both for the study of the underlying conflict and for the study of transnational filmmaking. Wherever possible, we have made the effort to provide a link to the actual film. Please keep in mind that these links may shift and change, and we apologize in advance if we do not manage to keep up with these changes. We will endeavor to keep the links up-to date and would appreciate it if you inform us of links that have shifted or changed, as well as of new important additions to the listing.
Keep in touch. Use this resource.