Wednesday March 26 marked the day that the KVS (Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg, i.e. the Royal Flemish Theatre) in Brussels screened ‘Infiltrators’, an important documentary film by Khaled Jarrar and ‘Condom Lead’, a short movie by the identical twin brothers known as Tarzan and Arab Nasser during the 4th edition of the Belgian Eye on Palestine Arts and Film Festival (EOP) as organised in Brussels and Ghent.
Since its inception in 2010, EOP screens Palestine-related film productions. The festival soon developed a multidisciplinary programme involving visual arts, music, theatre, keynote lectures and other related activities. To those who wonder about its importance, the only answer could be this: beyond the inspiring, moving, challenging or confronting beauty, quality and statements of related film productions, art works, music and theatre, the necessity remains to stand with the Palestinians and raise awareness for their cause. Almost a year ago, on 15 May 2013, Palestinians and people sympathising with the Palestinian cause worldwide commemorated 65 years of brutal, catastrophic and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine since 1948 that came to be known as the Nakba; a fait accompli that still lacks legitimacy today.
Khaled Jarrar (1976, West Bank city of Jenin) lives and works in Ramallah. His discerning artistic practice as a multimedia artist and film maker was showcased in recent solo and group exhibitions, such as during 2012’s ‘NEWTOPIA: The State of Human Rights’, a multi-sited contemporary arts exhibition in the Belgian cities of Mechelen and Brussels, and at the 15th Jakarta Biennale in 2013. Some people will remember his name from his 2013 project ‘Whole in the Wall’ at Ayyam Gallery in London, UK, where Jarrar created a huge concrete wall on the spot, à la the infamous Apartheid Wall dividing the West Bank and separating it from Israel.
With his award-winning documentary film ‘Infiltrators’ (2012, 70 minutes), Jarrar depicts the grim reality of daily life for the majority of Palestinians trapped on either side of the Wall.
“How are you, mother? Are you well? How is my brother -and the kids? I wish I could kiss your hand, mother, habibti yemma (beloved mother), ya ruhi (my soul).” The voice resounds from the other side of the Wall. Through a crack in the Wall above a metal doorway construction the hand of the woman appears, groping about. She finds the hand of her old, old mother, whose eyes fill with tears. Their fingers intertwine as the woman continues talking from the other side. “As you can see, my mother is old and if anything happens to her I won’t be able to see her. If anything bad happens to her, God forbid, maybe I won’t be able to say goodbye and kiss her, to ask for her forgiveness and blessings!” The old mother dries the tears trickling down her cheeks. Her daughter’s voice: “What can I tell you? It is hard.” The daughter pushes something through the crack; a photo frame with a picture showing a baby boy and two men in the upper left corner. The daughter: “This is my grandson. We sent them to America, because there are no jobs, there are no houses and no liberty.” The old mother, apparently a great grandmother, silently kisses the pictures, her eyes lost in the painfully near distance of her child on the other side of the Wall.
At some point we see a man working in what seems to be a tunnel, amidst a lot of rubble –stones, wooden poles, metal tubes. A mobile phone rings. A man says: “Ah, keep the people with you. The tunnel is still closed.” Men talk. “Leave him alone,” another says when someone approaches the one working on the rubble, “he’s a professional.” Stones are being pulled away from the pile of rubble; a hole is being cleared. “Listen, listen, now he’s able to pass through!” People enter the dark tunnel -a flashlight shines whilst agitated voices, hurried footsteps and splashing sounds echo against the concrete tunnel walls. They need time to adjust to the darkness, but have to drag themselves quickly through the dirty water. Is it a sewerage, a draining canal? Some people are barefoot; others wear plastic bags to protect their shoes. Children’s voices sound full of fear. A baby cries, louder and louder. The baby is wrapped up in cloth, passed on by someone in the dark tunnel to someone already outside.
Another shot: “Something very upsetting happened here last Saturday. A large group of workers, about 200, gathered here and weren’t able to get out. They waited from early night till next morning. The Israeli army jeeps apparently weren’t able to patrol. So, the workers started crossing. One of the guys was hesitant. He began crossing the motorway. He crossed the first two lanes and when he crossed the third he got hit by a car driven by an Israeli. His head turned 180 degrees because he wasn’t allowed to enter Israel even for medical treatment. He died on the spot. God rest his soul!”
Tarzan & Arab Nasser
The identical twin brothers Ahmad and Muhammad Abu Nasser aka Tarzan & Arab Nasser (1988, Gaza) offer a different approach to and insight into the trauma-torn life in the occupied territory of the Gaza strip. Fascinated by the actual remnants of demolished Palestinian cinema theatres in their neighbourhood, closed in the 1980s, the twins were much inspired by the partly burned, old film posters they encountered and a dream was born: to one day, one day, produce their own films and be able to enjoy watching them. A meeting with the Palestinian filmmaker Khalil Al Mozian changed their lives. Under the guidance of Al Mozian, the brothers started to explore and express their creative response to the Israeli occupation by creating film posters for possible future feature films with intriguing names that refer to the notorious military operations executed by the Israeli Defence Forces. In 2010 they received the AM Qattan Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year Award for this project, entitled ‘Gazawood’, which also entailed their first short film, ‘Colourful Journey’ (5:51 minutes). This award was their ticket to yet a new reality: the international acknowledgement of their work enabled them to travel abroad and present their work elsewhere, after facing lots of difficulties to realise this.
Referring to the IDF’s military operation Cast Lead of 2008-2009 on the Gaza Strip, about which the twins designed a poster (2010), the fictional feature film ‘Condom Lead’ (2013, 15 minutes) is a short movie based on an idea and a story by the brothers’ mentor, Khalil Al Mozian.
‘Condom Lead’ highlights the precious but fragile dimension of a couple’s physical intimacy when it becomes framed in the constantly audible exposure to an armed conflict.
Countless ‘balloons’ bring in a wry sense of humour, when time passes by without a change of circumstances. The fearful, innocent child might well signify both hopelessness and hope, especially when nightly frustration is released into the breeze and the city skyline fills with the remains of unfulfilled desire.
‘Condom Lead’, filmed in one day, is the very first Palestinian movie that received a nomination for the category ‘short films’ at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
Eye on Palestine Arts and Film Festival – 24/03 – 06/04/2014, Brussels and Ghent, Belgium.
Three film posters by Tarzan and Arab Nasser, Khaled Jarrar’s ‘Infiltrators’ and the latter’s ‘Bus Stop Sep 5’, a short documentary movie, currently also feature in the eclectic international group exhibition soon covered by al.arte, ‘Fragile Hands’. This exhibition is curated by Shaheen Merali for Die Angewandte in Vienna, the capital of Austria. Check our website for updates, as al.arte was there too!
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