Palestinian film director Leila Sansour is fighting to keep her home town of Bethlehem open as the Israeli barrier slowly carves up and strangles the city, capturing Palestinian land for Israeli settlements. Leila’s next film The Road to Bethlehem will document five year’s of the wall’s construction and its impact on Leila and her community. Here, Leila shares her thoughts with Tipping Point Film Fund’s supporters.
I spent last month in London discussing plans for the release of my film. This is an industry where you have to plan ahead, especially when you are on a shoestring budget. A producer once told me to think of a film as a triangle with the three sides labelled: ‘Good’ ‘Cheap’ and ‘Fast’. She told me, you can only ever have two sides of the triangle at a time, never three. The result is, we are going slow. Being in London gave me a chance to vote in the General Election. As usual, I had British foreign policy on my mind, so while my friends discussed the economy, taxes and immigration, my thoughts were far away, with a people on the other side of the Mediterranean.
Last week our team took a meeting with a potential partner in the States. As usual, I found myself explaining the wall. “It does not encircle Bethlehem as you might think,” I say. “It cuts the entire area into two parcels, with the urban part on one side and the countryside on the other, cutting the farmland off from the town. Once the wall is complete the townspeople will be shunted into just 13 per cent of the original Bethlehem, while Israeli settlements expand into the rest.” The information causes consternation – not least among members of my team, as I discover later. This is the real challenge: when something is so absurd it is very difficult to communicate what it is really happening, even to the most interested and sympathetic friends.
I return to Bethlehem next week to resume the work of editing. I also resume my role as the director of Open Bethlehem, a campaign against the wall. A key part of my activities is providing fact-finding tours to politicians, diplomats, clergy and media. I distinctly remember one very earnest lady joining us on a summer day. After a tour of the wall we ended up at the highest point in Bethlehem, overlooking an expanse of settlements. This woman sat on a rock in bewilderment and devastation. The first thing she said when she opened her mouth was: “I do not understand this. Surely if this is really happening to the Palestinians, the whole world would be up in arms”. The world is not up in arms, but this lady is. She is Jewish-American and she travels the length and breadth of the US to tell our story. I hope my film will bring the reality of Bethlehem to many around the world who cannot make the journey – and that it will encourage others to visit my still beautiful, fast-disappearing city.
To find out more about The Road to Bethlehem or to watch a clip from the film, click here.
If you’d like to support The Road to Bethlehem please donate here and mark your donation ‘The Road to Bethlehem’.