17th Annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival
April 21 - May 3
The Gene Siskel Film Center collaborates with the Chicago Palestine Film Festival to present the seventeenth 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.
- Barbara Scharres
Writing On Snow
2017, Rashid Masharawi, Palestine/Tunisia, 72 min. With Ghassan Massoud, Ramzi Maqdisi
- Thu, Apr 26th 8:15pm
Director Masharawi (LAILA'S BIRTHDAY, TICKET TO JERUSALEM) poses high-stakes questions with no easy answers in this intense drama that has the impact of a cautionary tale. Featuring an international cast of notable actors representing Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, the story is set in a small ground-floor apartment, where a middle-aged couple is forced to give shelter to desperate strangers when violence erupts in the street outside. The physical danger may lie beyond their door, but psychic danger simmers within, as differences of politics and belief, and raw sentiments of misogyny splinter these fellow Palestinians into warring factions. DCP digital.
Preceded by the short THE BITTER INK by Elia Ghorbiah (2016, Palestine, 27 min.). Both in Arabic with English subtitles. (BS)
Thursday 4/26: WRITING ON SNOW producer Rashid Masharawi is scheduled to appear for discussion via Skype.
Gaza Surf Club
2016, Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine, Germany, 87 min.
- Fri, Apr 27th 8:00pm
"An inspiring warmhearted look at the group of resilient spirits who find a way to indulge their passion for surfing while living in the Gaza Strip, one of the world's most battle-scarred locales." - Jay Weissberg, Variety
"Politics is not the point of the Gaza Surf Club…but the political situation there informs every part of this project." - Julia Felsenthal, Vogue
The striking contrasts of this documentary, set on the Mediterranean shores of Gaza City, an impoverished and war-ravaged locale, poignantly point up the challenges faced by a dedicated group of mostly self-taught surfers, who look for a few hours of escape in the embrace of sea and sky. Club members struggle with a lack of basic equipment, even proper boards, but love of the sport and determination rather than self-pity characterize the film's portraits, ranging from Ibrahim, who dreams of Hawaii and longs to open a homegrown board shop, to fifteen-year-old Sabah, taught to surf as a child by her dad but now too old to hit the beach according to religious and cultural dictates that deem her a woman who must be modestly covered. In Arabic, English, and Hawaiian with English subtitles. DCP digital.
Preceded by the short AYNY by Ahmad Saleh (2016, Germany/Jordan/Palestine, 10 min.). In Arabic with English subtitles. (BS)
Friday 4/27: GAZA SURF CLUB producer Philip Gnadt is scheduled to appear for discussion via Skype.
2017, Raed Andoni, Palestine/France/Switzerland, 94 min. With Ramzi Maqdisi, Mohammmed Khattab
- Sat, Apr 28th 8:15pm
"Aims to expose the trauma that Palestinians endure regularly in Israeli detention." - Zineb Abdessadok, Aljazeera
"Forces the viewer to face a terrible and cruel reality head on and without any filters…at times we wonder where the border between fiction and reality really is." - Cristóbal Soage, Cineuropa
Looking to exorcise the demons from his own incarceration in Israel's notorious Al Moskobiya detention center, director Andoni (FIX ME) embarked on the making of this film that has since its inception attracted both controversy and acclaim, in 2017 winning Best Documentary and an Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival. Assembling a cast of non-professional actors whose specified qualifications were construction skills and previous incarceration in Al Moskobiya, the director led the men in a psychologically risky experiment to build a facsimile of their prison in order to reenact their ordeals, with participants trading off the roles of prisoner and captor/torturer to searing effect. In Arabic and English with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Preceded by the short THE PARROT by Darin J. Sallam and Amjad Al Rasheed (2016, Germany/Jordan, 18 min.). In Arabic, Hebrew, and Yiddish with English subtitles. (BS)
Saturday 4/28: GHOST HUNTING lead actor Ramzi Maqdisi is scheduled to appear for discussion via Skype.
Off Frame: Revolution Until Victory
Kharej al-itar aw thawra hata el nasser
2015, Mohanad Yaqubi, Palestine/France/Jordan, 80 min.
- Sun, Apr 29th 5:30pm
"Fascinating and necessary…looks at the struggles of the Palestinians through their own eyes." - Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter
The rarest of rare film footage shot over six decades by Palestinian filmmakers is the cultural and political trove that director Yaqubi assembles for a comprehensive look at the historical struggle for nationhood. Years of research, restoration, and editing have resulted in a portrait of upheaval, beginning with the mass displacement of Palestinians in 1948, and continuing into the present century. An unprecedented number of short film excerpts from the 1960s and 1970s, shot by the PLO's Palestinian Film Unit, depart significantly from the international media-eye perspective, to represent an inside view on evolving strategies and philosophies of revolution and liberation, with avant-garde filmmakers including Jean-Luc Godard evoked as inspiration. In English. DCP digital.
Preceded by the shorts ONE DAY IN JULY by Hermes Mangialardo (2015, Italy, 2 min.); and 100 BALFOUR ROAD by Palestine Return Center and Balfour Apology Center (2017, UK/Palestine, 11 min.). (BS)
Sunday 4/29: Nadia Yaqub, author of "Palestinian Cinema in the Days of the Revolution," is scheduled to appear for discussion via Skype.
1948: Creation and Catastrophe
2017, Andy Trimlett and Ahlam Muhtaseb, USA, 85 min.
- Wed, May 2nd 8:00pm
A new perspective on the cataclysmic events of 1948, the year in which nearly a million Palestinian men, women, and children were forced from their homes following the founding of Israel, is seen in this documentary marking the seventieth anniversary of the events. A tragedy familiar to every Palestinian, this was an aspect of newly-minted Israel's story that received scant coverage in American news media of the day. With the number of Palestinians and Israelis who were present and are still able to provide first-person accounts diminishing by the year, filmmakers Trimlett and Muhtaseb set out to provide the most accurate and detailed account of this history that has yet been assembled, interviewing veterans, refugees, and survivors. Additional perspective is provided by noted historians including Charles D. Smith, Avi Shlaim, Nur Masahla, Rashid Khalidi, and more. In English, Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.
Preceded by the short BETWEEN THE GARDEN AND THE SEA by A. Lorr (2016, Palestine, 16 min.). In Arabic with English subtitles. (BS)
Wednesday 5/2: CREATION AND CATASTROPHE co-director Ahlam Muhtaseb is scheduled to appear for discussion, and co-director/producer Andy Trimlett is scheduled to appear for discussion via Skype.
2017, Erika Cohn, Palestine/USA, 76 min.
- Thu, May 3rd 7:45pm
"Captivating and stirring…masterfully captures the experience of the West Bank." - Anastasia Akulinina, Point of View Magazine
"A true verité courtroom drama…highlights the obstacles many women face in trying to achieve justice." - Toronto International Film Festival program
This portrait of the Middle East's first and only female judge in Palestine's court system of Shari'a law, governing domestic and family matters, is gripping for the force-of-nature charisma of its subject Kholoud Al-Faqih, as well as for insight into the lives of women who have long been relegated to roles as silent and lesser partners in family life. With the backing of a progressive sheik and against formidable odds, Al-Faqih, a lawyer and scholar of Shari'a law, realizes her youthful ambition to be appointed a judge, only to meet with the ongoing resistance posed by history and tradition. With an intimate cinéma-vérité view that only a female crew could access, director Cohn (Emmy-winning IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST) traces the judge's journey. For an American audience, THE JUDGE provides unprecedented clarity concerning the nature of Shari'a law and corrects a host of misconceptions that prevail in the Islamophobic Western world. In Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital.
Preceded by the short ROOF KNOCKING by Sina Salimi (2016, Estonia/Palestine, 12 min.). Both in Arabic with English subtitles. (BS)
Thursday 5/3: THE JUDGE editor Sara Maamouri is scheduled to appear for discussion.
2017, Annemarie Jacir, Palestine/France/Germany, 96 min. With Mohammad Bakri, Saleh Bakri.
"A whip-smart, moving comedy of family and community…lively realism and down to earth social humor." - John Bleasdale, CineVue
"Built foursquare around the charm and skill of co-leads Mohammad and Saleh Bakri…accessible and genial glimpse into a complex and sometimes fraught area of the Middle East." - Neil Young, Variety
In this poignant comedy featuring a father and semi-estranged son verbally sparring with each other across the generation gap, director Jacir (SALT OF THIS SEA, WHEN I SAW YOU), Palestine's foremost female filmmaker, scores a winning combo with the casting of the real-life father and son Mohammad Bakri (LAILA'S BIRTHDAY) and Saleh Bakri (THE TIME THAT REMAINS). Prodigal son Shadi, a hip, worldly and wary architect living in Italy, returns home to Nazareth for his sister's wedding and is drawn into an obligatory ritual - accompanying his old-school dad Abu in a meandering journey around town to hand-deliver the invitations. The day in Abu's beat-up Volvo is punctuated by clumsy attempts at matchmaking, the unabashed probing of Shadi by nosy relatives, political spats, and, ultimately, a coming together over buried sorrows and deferred hopes. In Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Preceded by the short FIVE BOYS AND A WHEEL by Said Zagha (2016, Palestine/Jordan, 19 min.). In Arabic with English subtitles. Also preceded by a pre-recorded video broadcast from WAJIB director Annemarie Jacir.
2017, Carol Mansour, Lebanon/Jordan/Palestine, 78 min.
The thobe, an intricately hand-embroidered traditional garment worn by Palestinian women, is the focus of this documentary in which the role of women as the guardians of history, culture, and resistance is celebrated. Twelve inspiring women, including activist Leila Khaled, human rights lawyer Mary Nazzal, historian Salma El-Yasir, and writer/actor Raeda Taha, weave stories of family struggle, exile, and persistence, encompassing those who have spent their lives outside of Palestine and those who have remained. Each memory is as colorfully distinctive and intricate as the handiwork on a cherished heirloom thobe, a symbol and metaphor for a diverse and interconnected heritage. In Arabic with English subtitles. DCP digital.
Preceded by the shorts ONE DAY IN JULY by Hermes Mangialardo (2015, Italy, 2 min.); and CROSSING by Dania Sharabati (2017, Lebanon, 14 min.). All in Arabic with English subtitles. (BS)
Disturbing the Peace
2016, Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young, Israel/Palestine/USA, 87 min.
"Vital, absorbing…inspiring." - Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
"Courageous and uplifting…so compelling."' - Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com
Former enemies representing both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli divide recount the epiphanies that changed their lives and their minds in this documentary centered on members of the non-violent movement Combatants for Peace (CFP). At its core, this is a chronicle of the experience of change in the making, with first-person testimony by people from all walks of life, including former Israeli soldiers and jailers, a Palestinian fighter whose heart was opened by watching SCHINDLER'S LIST while in prison, and one would-be martyr, a mother who movingly tells of kissing her child goodnight and going out to wear the suicide vest. Archival footage and news coverage from rallies enhance the powerful impact. In English. DCP digital.
Preceded by the short MEMORY OF THE LAND by Samiria Badran (2017, Spain/Palestine, 12 min.). (BS)