Monday, March 10, 2008

Italian solidarity with Palestinian filmmaker on trial in Israel

By Nicola Perugini, The Electronic Intifada, 10 March 2008

"At the end of last November, filmmaker Mohammad Bakri furiously left a press conference organizaed at the Library of the Auditorium of Rome. He was present because of the performance of the opera Al Kamandjati based on the story of Palestinian musician Ramzi Aburedwan and his music school in Ramallah. The reason for his anger was that not a single journalist asked him any questions when he announced that he would soon be tried in Israel because of his 2002 film Jenin Jenin.

Jenin Jenin documents the aftermath of Israel's April 2002 siege of the northern West Bank refugee camp, during which many of the residents were killed and a large part of the camp was leveled by bulldozers. Journalists were not allowed into the camp during the incursion and Israeli forces did not allow human rights organizations in immediately afterwards, and the film documents the destruction of the camp and the exasperation of camp residents during this time. Jenin Jenin co-producer Iyad Samudi was killed by Israeli forces shortly after the film's completion.

In 2002 the film was banned by the Israeli Film Ratings Board but a year later the ban was lifted by the Israel's high court after one year of media attacks against Mohammad. The attacks went on in the following years, through 2007, when five Israeli army reservists who participated in the Jenin massacre accused Bakri of defamation of character. Their names, their faces and their bodies don't appear in the film. But what if they were in the film? If they were filmed committing shootings, demolitions, the massacre perpetrated with the consensus of the political and military chain of Israel, could we say that the images were a form of defamation? Photos and images, in a certain sense, are the icons of the object that they represent. But the point of the trial isn't that it does or doesn't show images of the soldiers in the film; the problem is that it gives voice to the survivors of Jenin.....

From 28 January until now, Jenin Jenin has been screened in more than 40 Italian cities and towns, with the fundamental help of the Association Hawiyya and its Project "Mediazione," which aims to correct official media by providing alternative information from sevaral areas of the world. In Rome, Naples, Bologna, Siena and Turin, Mohammad Bakri told his story and participated in several debates on his trial. The screenings continue, with new towns and cities are organizing the events, lending an even wider audience to the film."

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