PALESTINIAN INHIBITION IN THE WALLED CITY OF BETHLEHEM
Leila Sansour writes about her and her family’s experience of life growing up under Israeli occupation. Reflecting on the past 45 years, she wonders how the future will unfold – not least for the younger generation who have known nothing but life under occupation.
‘As a child growing up in Bethlehem, I was entrusted with burning all the political books in my father’s library whenever there was an Israeli raid. Now my city is surrounded by walls and ring-fenced by more than forty Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land.’
In September 2011, as Palestine prepared for its bid for UN recognition, Leila writes about this hugely significant step.
‘The Palestinian UN bid – an uncharted territory. Is the risk going to the UN? Or is the greater risk doing it half- heartedly? Read it here.
We are delighted that Leila Sansour’s feature documentary film, The Road to Bethlehem, has been selected for the prestigious Dubai International Film Festival 2010 (DIFF) and will be screened on 16th December, 6pm and 18th December, 10pm. Additionally, the film has received an award from the Dubai Entertainment and Media Organization, which is now a co-producer on the film. Dubai also hosts a market for distributors and sales agents from all over the world
Hurray, it’s Greenbelt time again! And If you don’t know what the amazing Greenbelt Arts Festival, 27-30 August, is all about then check out their website – line up includes Beverley Knight, Gil Scott Heron and Courtney Pine.
We’ll be there, screening some powerful and provocative films, hosting lively panel debates, asking some difficult questions and trying our best to provide some inspiring answers. And if we’re not busy doing that you’ll probably find us admiring our exciting Bethlehem-inspired installation in the G Source tent. Come and find us and admire it too!
In the meantime find out what we’re screening at the FILM venue and when…
Saturday 28 August, 2.30pm
Vanishing of the Bees
As scientists puzzle over the alarming disappearance of honeybees, organic beekeepers indicate alternative reasons for the tragic loss. The film will be followed by a discussion.
Sunday 29 August, 2.30pm
Risking torture and life imprisonment, Burmese video journalists go undercover to document the 2007 monk uprising, exposing to the international community the Burmese government’s violent and bloody crack-down. The film will be followed by Q&A and book signing with Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK. Zoya is one of Europe’s leading Burmese democracy activists and coordinator for the European Karen Network. Her autobiography Little Daughter was published in April 2009.
Monday 30 August, 11.30am
Jeremy Hardy vs Israeli Army
The Radio 4 comedian tags along with Palestinian film-maker Leila Sansour as she travels to Israel and the Occupied Territories to team up with members of the International Solidarity Movement (or ISM), as they engage in non-violent direct action to challenge the occupation. The film will be followed by Q&A with Jeremy Hardy.
Monday 30 August, 2.30pm
Two US film makers pose as top executives of corporations they hate; lying their way into business conferences to parody their corporate targets, doing everything they can to expose the danger of letting greed run our world. The film will be followed by a panel debate: How far is enough? A discussion about the pros and cons of peaceful direct action. The panel will be chaired by Tipping Point Film Fund and include speakers from Trident Ploughshares, World Development Movement, Christian Aid and Tearfund.
Vanishing of the Bees, Burma VJ and The Yes Men Fix World is screened in association with Dogwoof.
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’.
Behind me in this picture is Bethlehem, the little town that you and I believe can tell the story of the whole of Palestine. You are getting this e-mail because of the support you have shown me over the past six years as I worked to turn the story of Open Bethlehem into a film – The Road to Bethlehem. Today we are moving into the next phase of the challenge – an audience outreach campaign to work alongside the film’s distribution. The release is planned for Christmas 2011.
Many of you know that my film, The Road to Bethlehem, has already been shown once at the Dubai international Film Festival, and I am delighted to report back that the screening has generated great interest from potential partners worldwide, from European and US cinemas, to President Carter’s Centre and beyond.
In the coming months we will be planning regional meetings among various stakeholders to help shape our plans. Many of uou will invited to take part alongside political groups, our funding partners as well as industry professionals. So, please stay tuned for our updates.
As ever, our plans are ambitious and they will be impossible to realise without your renewed commitment and support. We are looking to raise a minimum of £25,000 to kick start the campaign and make sure that our base includes influential individuals and institutions in the US. We also need urgent help with an additional sum of £15,000 to go towards the release. This sum will allow us to cover copyright fees for the stunning archive footage and original music featured in the film. It will also allow us to give the film the final cinematic look that will make it so much more attractive to mainstream cinemas. My very funny friend Jeremy Hardy has a few words to say to you on this subject. I am hoping his wisdom will prove persuasive.
Jeremy Hardy’s words of wisdom.
We are keen to speak to each one of you to discuss details so please get in touch if you think you can help. I am currently in London on +44 (0)7814937743. Otherwise you can visit the website of The Tipping Point Film Fund- my key partner in the UK and encourage your friends to donate. It is very easy.
For Bank Transfers (possibly the most convenient) please email firstname.lastname@example.org so she can pass relevant bank details to you.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank you all again for all the kindness and support you showed me over the years and to urge you to join us on the next stage of this journey- The Road to Bethlehem.
My warmest regards to all of you