Tel Aviv today is a celebrated metropolis, but Palestinians who were displaced from the area during Israel's founding in 1948 may tell a different story. That formative historical time, known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or their "catastrophe," is the subject of a film festival this week at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
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Films by both Israelis and Palestinians will be screened at this first-ever festival about the Nakba, initiated by the NGO Zochrot ("We remember"). The group aims to increase Israeli Jews' "acknowledgement of and accountability for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba," in part by organizing tours to the sites of razed Palestinian villages in modern-day Israel.
The festival runs from November 28-30, and the date of the event is no coincidence. November 29 is the 66th anniversary of the Partition Plan, which as Zochrot puts it, "fixated the idea of partition and separation between Jews and Arabs in historical Palestine and was a key milestone in the ongoing conflict and the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians."
The works being screened are not only historical in nature. Part of Zochrot's mission is to envision a future when Palestinian refugees can return to their homeland and live alongside Israelis. Several of the festival’s shorts, features, and documentaries also center on intergenerational conversations and healing from communal trauma.
Opening the festival is "On the Side of the Road" by first-time filmmaker Lia Tarachanksy. The documentary features rare testimony from Israelis who took part in some of the most controversial military operations of the 1948 war. Meditating on the power of denial and the complexity of memory, the film aims to break longstanding taboos in Israeli society on discussing the Nakba.
Also among the festival’s 12 films is the Israeli premiere of "When I Saw You" by Palestinian director and poet Annemarie Jacir. Earning accolades at Berlinale, Toronto, and Cairo film festivals, the film was the Palestinian submission for Oscar consideration in 2012. It tells the fictional story of a boy’s life after becoming a refugee in Jordan in 1967. Tarek is part of a second wave of refugees to arrive in Jordan, joining the Palestinians who came in 1948, but he insists on leaving rather than making a home in the camps.
Thursday through Saturday, November 28-30. "When I Saw You" will be screened only at the Jaffa Theater on November 30 at 6 P.M. All other screenings will take place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, 2 Sprinzak Street, Tel Aviv. For festival listings.