The 18th Annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival
April 20 - May 2
From April 20 through May 2, the Gene Siskel Film Center collaborates with the Chicago Palestine Film Festival to present the eighteenth annual festival representing the spirit and mood of contemporary Palestinian life.
This festival is dedicated to exhibiting film and video work that is open, critical, and reflective of the culture, experience, and vision of the artists. This year's festival is made possible in part through the support of the Crossroads Fund and the hard work of many volunteers. For their invaluable cooperation, the Gene Siskel Film Center thanks the members of the Chicago Palestine Film Festival Committee.
2018, Bassam Jarbawi, Palestine/USA/Qatar, 108 min.
With Ziad Bakri, Areen Omari
Sentenced to an Israeli prison for murder as a teenager, Ziad (Bakri), now in his thirties, returns home to Ramallah, to an unfamiliar world of smartphones, social media, and friends who have had the luxury of moving on. The joy of family celebrations soon gives away to confusion for a man suffering PTSD from years in solitary, and who smarts under the humiliation of depending on others, even for pocket money. Director Jarbawi skillfully brings the larger picture of unaddressed wounds into focus, as Ziad, eligible and single, struggles to find work and achieve normalcy while pursued by two women: his sister’s best friend Salma (Maya Omaia Keesh); and Palestinian American filmmaker Mina (Yasmine Qaddumi), who hopes to make him the subject of her documentary. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.
On Saturday only, preceded by THE CHAIR (2018, Laila Abbas, Palestine, 15 min.). On Thursday only, preceded by BONBONÉ (2017, Rakan Mayas, Palestine/Lebanon, 15 min.). All in DCP digital. (BS)
2018, Mats Grorud, France/Sweden/Norway, 74 min.
“Evocative…filled with moments of bittersweet humor and shreds of hope.”--Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter
In this sensitively written and directed feature animation, eleven-year-old Wardi’s beloved great- grandfather Sidi entrusts her with the precious key he always wears around his neck, signaling that another sad milestone in her family’s tumultuous history in a Beirut refugee camp is looming. A child’s-eye view of life among the labyrinthine streets and homemade towers of the 70-year-old camp becomes a daily journey of discovery, as the unique story of Wardi’s family unfolds in all its pain and pride. Utilizing 2D, Claymation, and puppet animation, director Grorud, who drew on a year of work in the Bourj el-Barajneh camp to develop the story, traces four generations back to the 1948 Al-Nakba, when 700,000 Palestinians were ejected from their homes. In Arabic, English, and French with English subtitles.
Preceded by THE SON OF JERUSALEM (2017, Khalil Bensira, Palestine, 3 min.) and LAYMUN (2017, Catherine Prowse and Hannah Quinn, UK, 5 min.). All in DCP digital. (BS)
2018, Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen, USA, 97 min.
- Wed, Apr 24th 8:00pm
Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, a 51-day siege that reduced a heavily populated region to rubble, is seen from the perspective of residents who survived the ordeal, making this documentary a searing piece of living testimony. Missiles and artillery pound Gaza City as far as the eye can see in the film’s opening sequences, in which blocks of low-rise homes, high-rise towers, and commercial properties are blown up with a relentlessness that becomes surreal in its pounding repetition. Over a period of months, filmmakers Blumenthal and Cohen return to the area to chart the progress of residents coming to grips with the devastation. Stories range from the shocked account of a man who returned to his decimated home to find six bound and gagged corpses in his shattered bathroom, to the defiant father of a murdered son, who declares. “Even if the rocks are all that’s left, we won’t surrender.” In English.
Preceded by SALAM (2018, Claire Fowler, USA/UK, 15 min.). Both in DCP digital. (BS)
2017, Thomas A. Morgan, USA/Lebanon, 73 min.
“A feel-good doc that’s clear-eyed and grounded in tough realities.”--Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
“A stirring tale of empowerment…shows how societal change can begin with small steps.”-- Andy Webster, The New York Times
Traditional home-cooked Middle Eastern cuisine generates hope and family income for immigrant women in this inspirational documentary that focuses on innovative entrepreneurship within the confines of Beirut’s Bourj el-Barajneh Refugee Camp. Palestinian Mariam Shaar, born and raised in the camp where her parents have lived since 1948, quit school to help support her family but found options limited until she hit on the plan to engage with other women in an enterprise involving the art and skill most of them know well--cooking palate-pleasing comfort food and regional specialties like the tangy Palestinian roasted chicken musakhan and the grain dish frikeh. Director Morgan follows the hard-won success of Maryam’s collective, which starts by supplying school lunches and goes on to cater weddings and parties, and has now set its sights on operating the first-ever refugee-camp food truck. Executive-produced by Susan Sarandon, this story of grassroots ingenuity is also a mouth-watering foodie film. In Arabic with English subtitles.
Preceded by COFFEE POT (2018, Thaer Al Azzah, Palestine, 10 min.). Both in DCP digital. (BS)
What Walaa Wants
2018, Christy Garland, Canada/Denmark, 89 min.
“A classic coming-of-age story with a girl-power message.”--Jay Weissberg, Variety
“Refreshing to see a film that portrays such a proud, resilient, young Palestinian woman…you will remember Walaa.”--Amy Siegel, Point of View Magazine
This vibrant coming-of-age documentary follows a headstrong Palestinian girl raised under trying family circumstances in the Balata Refugee Camp, as she prepares to burst into womanhood on her own terms. Fifteen-year-old Walaa, coping with the return of her mother from eight years in prison for aiding a suicide bomber, announces her surprising resolve to join the Palestinian Security Forces. Director Garland follows her subject’s progress over the five years in which Walaa pursues her dream, finding the discipline and rigorous physical demands of military life a greater challenge than she anticipated. Walaa’s mercurial personality and energy level set the tone and the pace of the film, while under the eye of a new mentor she moves with newfound grace from teenage impulsiveness to capable adulthood. In Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital.
Preceded by FACES OF NABLUS (2012, Omar Nabulsi, Palestine, 12 min.). Both in DCP digital. (BS)
The Truth: Lost at Sea
2018, Rifat Audeh, Jordan, 56 min.
First-time filmmaker Audeh’s plan to record his participation in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla, a convoy of humanitarian ships that attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, took a shocking turn when the Israelis launched a nocturnal attack in international waters, killing ten activists and wounding or imprisoning hundreds of others. Born out of a pressing need to give witness to history and lay bare the scope of the tragic human rights violations, THE TRUTH has been meticulously assembled from rare video footage shot by Audeh and other participants who had been beaten, robbed, or taken into custody. Never-before-seen footage is supplemented by survivor statements that provide eye-witness testimony that starkly contradicts many of the mainstream news accounts of the event. In multiple languages with English subtitles.
Preceded by 9 HUMANS FROM GAZA (2018, Luca Galassi, Italy/Palestine, 35 min.). Both in DCP digital. (BS)
The Man Who Stole Banksy
2018, Marco Proserpio, Italy, 93 min.
This sprightly documentary examines the controversy surrounding a 2007 mural created on a Bethlehem wall by noted street artist Banksy, and reveals just how complex cultural interpretations of art can be. Conceived with apparent absurdist intent, Banksy’s silhouette painting depicts an Israeli soldier checking a donkey’s passport. Scores of Palestinian residents, including outspoken taxi driver Walid, the owner of the wall, took offense, believing that the artist meant to equate Palestinians with donkeys. The plot thickens when Walid decides that revenge lies in having the section of wall removed intact and auctioned off in Europe. Director Proserpio expands this bizarre story into a wider look at the issues surrounding the legality and ownership of guerilla art created in public places, with Palestinian citizens, lawyers, and art dealers all weighing in. Narrated by Iggy Pop. In English.
Preceded by THE CROSSING (2017, Ameen Nayfeh, Palestine, 11 min.). Both in DCP digital. (BS)
Naila and the Uprising
2018, Julia Bacha, USA/Palestine, 76 min.
“A must-see…as inspirational a tale as you’re likely to see.”--Kieran Fisher, Nonfics
“Examining the issue from multiple sides…a beautiful work of art.”--Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Hammer to Nail
A feeling account of the lifelong activism of Naila Ayesh, Palestinian resistance leader during the First Intifada in the 1980s, this hybrid documentary unfolds the larger untold story of women’s crucial role. In a career that began with her political awakening as a child, when the Israelis demolished her family home, Ayesh endures repeated arrests, jail time, and targeted harassment as she leads women in grassroots actions that effectively sustain the movement when the male population is decimated by imprisonment and deportation. Director Bacha alternates interviews and archive footage with starkly evocative animation to move this chronicle into an iconic realm in scenes including Ayesh’s arrest, interrogation, and the torture that leads to her miscarriage, a tragic event that brought international attention and rallied Palestinian women to the cause. In Arabic, Hebrew, and English with English subtitles.
Preceded by FROM BENEATH THE EARTH (2017, Sami Alalul, Palestine, 21 min.). Both in DCP digital. (BS)