Women filmmakers and protagonists are strongly represented at the 14th annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival, which opened last night at the downtown Gene Siskel Film Center and runs through 30 April. The opening feature, Eyes of a Thief by Najwa Najjar (Pomegranates and Myrrh), was Palestine’s entry to this year’s Academy Awards (watch the trailer above).
The Chicago Palestine Film Festival, the world's longest running Palestinian film festival, announced its 2015 line-up. This year's festival will be held from April 18-30 at the Gene Siskel Film Center and will feature award-winning films such as Eyes of a Thief by Najwa Najjar. Here is a listing of this year's films.
Najwa Najjar is a Palestinian filmmaker based in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. She has worked in both documentary and fiction. Her debut film was the feature Pomegranates and Myrrh (2009), and her second feature is. Eyes of a Thief (2014). The latter was selected as the Palestinian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, but was not nominated.
When Linda Bevis started her second career in teaching nineteen years ago, she noticed that the textbooks for high school world history dedicated about five paragraphs to Palestine and Israel. The Seattle resident, educator, and longtime activist knew how difficult it would be for any teacher to use that material productively. “While I actually don’t think the conflict is a complicated one, it cannot be explained in five paragraphs."
For award-winning Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, cinema serves as a tool of resistance. From escaping to the cinema as a child to his own 2006 Golden Globe winning and Oscar nominated film Paradise Now, Abu-Assad has utilized film as a means of exploring different manifestations of oppression.
Amer Shomali discusses his film debut Wanted 18, including the filmmaking process, creative resistance during the first Palestinian Intifada, and why he chose talking cows as his protagonists. A Palestinian multidisciplinary artist, Amer Shomali uses painting, digital media, films, installations and comics as tools to explore and interact with the sociopolitical scene in Palestine.
Besides being slickly made, this documentary about Palestinian female rally-race drivers, directed by first-time filmmaker Amber Fares, delivers a spirited, crowd-pleasing portrait of four tenacious, strong-minded young women determined to express themselves in their heavily male-dominated culture and sport.
The Ajyal Youth Film Festival opened in Doha’s Katara Village with the pulsating documentary Speed Sisters, about the first all-women rally-racing team in the Arab world. The film is directed by Amber Fares, who grew up in northern Alberta as the child of Lebanese immigrants. After 9/11, when mosques started being attacked in Canada, Fares wanted to better understand Arab culture so went to the Middle East.
Amber Fares' Speed Sisters is cool, fast-paced, insightful and fun to watch. Everything a documentary about the first all-women race car driving team in the Middle East should be, and more. With an infectious soundtrack which includes songs by my new obsession Hanouneh -- a Swedish/Palestinian musical sensation who successfully fuses Dancehall beats with Arab sounds and English lyrics -- it's the perfect film to kick off a festival in style.