Dictating Palestinian cinema: The ‘Wall’ in Palestinian film

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Has anyone ever done a study of the use of Israel’s ‘Wall’ in Palestinian film/culture? I’d wager it is a motif in perhaps 90% of what is produced (to be fair, much of what is produced is created by a small group of inter-connected elites, many working with outsiders who also encourage them in similar themes); it is hard to recall what was Palestinian film and associated culture for outside audiences before the Wall, before 2003 or so.

In using the Wall as cliche/motif, Palestinians certainly shed light on an important aspect of the struggle. But in a roundabout sense haven’t they allowed Israel to dictate to them what is Palestine? It is like “had Israel not built this, we wouldn’t have films to make or themes to make them on.” The Wall is a distraction, a cultural sponge.  As in this example of the Palestinian film festival in Australia.

It plays well abroad, there’s no doubt about that. But is it making Palestinian cultural landscape thin, simplistic and anti-culture? If the wall is the only mosaic and Israel built the wall…well consider the problem that this represents. Israel is the symbol of Palestine. That feeds into the message I’ve written about before, the Darwish quote about ‘they care about us because you are our enemy.’ In the long run, doesn’t that amputate Palestinian culture?

Let’s look at some other examples:

The Boston Film Festival

The Boston Film Festival

A 2013 festival

A 2013 festival

And in film and marathons:

Omar (2014)

Omar (2014)

The 2014 Palestine marathon had a similar theme to this poster

The 2014 Palestine marathon had a similar theme to this poster

And most of all in printed form:

Some books

Some books

Palestinian culture as presented to the world tends towards this cliche.  However for internal consumption it is less simplistic, less banal, less one dimensional, such as this sketch cartoon about recent conflicts in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem cartoon

Jerusalem cartoon

 

Is there a feeling that the “internationals” aren’t interested in multi-dimensional Palestinian life; that they also want to consume only several elements of Palestine, such as ‘The Wall’, the woman harvesting olives, the man shepherding sheep, the kids throwing stones?  Perhaps the audience is also to blame, in the symbiotic relationship of consumer and producer?  Either way, one has to wonder, to escape the prison of occupation which Palestinians so passionately demand, is not the cultural prison of also in need of escaping?  The two go hand in hand.

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