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A new documentary, “Flying Paper,” takes us on a cinematic journey into the kite culture among Palestinian youth in the Gaza Strip, and their quest to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown.
The film will be shown at Athens International Film Festival in Ohio starting this week [Editor’s note: the article was originally published before the Festival took place. The Athens International Film and Video Festival took place between April 12 and April 18 2013].
Flying Paper tells the uplifting story of Palestinian youth in Gaza in the run-up to the world record-breaking event, showcasing the creative resilience of youth making and flying kites despite the hardship in their lives.
The feature-length documentary film was directed by Nitin Sawhney and Roger Hill, and co-produced with a team of young filmmakers in Gaza. Told through the lens of a handful of children from Jabaliya refugee camp and Seifa village, the film seeks to convey a unique, compelling narrative of life from a place that is very often misrepresented in the mainstream media.
Co-directors of Flying Paper and key members of the production team discussed the film.
Back in 2006, Nitin Sawhney, Assistant Professor of Media Studies at New School for Public Engagement, co-founded the media initiative Voices Beyond Walls (VBW) to run digital storytelling workshops with Palestinian youth in refugee camps, in the West Bank. French freelance photographer Anne Paq joined VBW in 2008. In winter 2009, Sawhney met US documentary filmmaker Roger Hill. They both wanted to shoot a film in Gaza, different in style to most documentaries on Palestine. The subject remained to be determined.
After a first trip to Gaza, Sawhney went back in summer 2010 to set up VBW youth media program in Jabaliya camp. Hill joined him as a trainer, and Paq came later to follow up with the program participants.
Sawhney and Hill felt it was necessary to produce a documentary-length film that would reach wider audiences. They had heard about a forthcoming kite festival, organized by the UN. The Guinness record-breaking attempt seemed to be an ideal cinematic story.
At the end of the youth media program, Sawhney challenged the best trainees: “If you’re really good, I want you to work with me and Roger on a new film project.” They signed on right away. Nearly a dozen youths aged 12-16 moved on to the production set, filming footage across Gaza and documenting the record-breaking festival.
The two central settings of the film are Jabaliya camp and Seifa village. Seifa sits close to Gaza’s northern border with Israel, inside the “buffer zone,” a military no-go area with watchtowers and shooting spots just meters away. Jabaliya, with the largest refugee camp in Gaza, is very densely populated.
To fill in the back-story, Sawhney and Hill looked for good kite makers as potential characters profiling the youth before, during and after the Guinness Record attempt. With the help of the UN, they found a family in Seifa.
Kite maker Musa, young charismatic leader, and his sister Widad, witty and sarcastic, are primary characters. The grandfather, Abu Ziad, village governor, also appears in the film to highlight the connection between his generation and the youth through the kite making tradition. Abeer, 19, leader among the young graduates from VBW program, is narrator and co-producer. “I enjoyed playing both roles,” she says. “I wanted to do make an impact through this film.’’
Abeer was fully involved in the making of Flying Paper, providing contextual information, conducting interviews, filming, giving feedback. “Abeer really helped to carry the film along. She has been vital on camera and behind the scenes,” Hill observes.
Paq, co-producer and photographer, worked with Abeer developing a voice narration, shooting additional segments with her and about daily life in Gaza. Based in the West Bank and often travelling to Gaza, Paq organized film showings, contributed with regular feedback, and facilitated sharing feedback from the Palestinian youth.
Video editor Ahmed Elabd and Emmy award winning editor Rafael Parra took Flying Paper through its final cut. World-acclaimed composer Nitin Sawhney, based in London, contributed with original music throughout the film. Animator Daniel Nienhuis produced animated sequences in the film.
Uzma Hasan, London-based independent producer, came on board last September. Hasan joined to help the film crew to raise finishing funds for completion, and get the film out to wide audiences worldwide.
According to Sawhney, this film is important because it’s purely told through children’s voices. “Those kids live under threat, yet they’re the most hilarious, charming kids you’ll ever meet,’’ the co-director adds.
For Hill, making the film in the voice of Gazan youth was crucial. “I valued the fresh perspective, energy and creativity that the youth brought,” he points out.
Similarly, Paq underlines the films doesn’t have experts talking with the children, or instead of them. “The voices of the youth aren’t taken away; it’s them talking to the camera,” she hints.
Far from being ignored in the film, the general situation in Gaza serves as background for the story. “The film shows many positive things about Gaza, but doesn’t remove the bigger picture,” the photographer clarifies.
The tone of Flying Paper is playful and uplifting. “For a documentary coming out of Gaza, the fact that it keeps you laughing, and breaks your heart, is amazing,” Sawhney notes. Hill thoroughly enjoyed telling a small story within the larger social-political context, with the intention to attract larger audiences who can learn about life in Gaza through the story.
Paq thinks a serious, heavy documentary doesn’t quite reach the public. “If you have a story offering a different dimension, you can touch people in a much stronger way,’’ she argues. Hasan shares similar thoughts. “This film throws a different line on a very over-politicized situation,” she says. “Its essence is incredibly simple, beautiful, and universal.”
Flying Paper captures children’s creative resilience through the kite culture. Sawhney believes the poetics of kites is an easily accessible metaphor for Gazan children. A struggle, in the act of making, and a sense of freedom, in the act of flying.
On the day of the kite festival, children turned up on the beach, ready to fly over 7,000 kites at once. “All those kids looking happy and proud of their achievement send a powerful message to the world,” Paq reflects. Among the many beautiful scenes, Paq points to one where Musa finds his kite broken, and repairs it. “It’s a strong metaphor for life in Gaza, where Palestinians rebuild their lives again,” she says.
Flying Paper was very well perceived in the local communities where it was filmed. “People welcomed a story that isn’t just about their suffering. There’s life, culture, community, love,’’ Hill emphasizes.
Jabaliya camp and Seifa were heavily bombed during Operation Pillar of Defense, last November. Paq was in Gaza to film more shots with Abeer for the final scenes. During the war, Paq shot some new footage. After careful discussion, the co-directors decided not to include the new material in the film, not to alter its narrative.
After three years in the making, Flying Paper was completed at the end of last year. The filmmakers successfully raised $28,956 from 286 backers via Kickstarter for completion of the final cut. Additional funding was secured through small grants and tax-deductible donations.
Private screenings were held in the US last year, and a showing was organized in Seifa, last February. Flying Paper has so far been accepted for screening at the Athens International Film Festival in Ohio (12th-18th April) and atLondon Palestine Film Festival on the 7th of May.
Abeer invites everyone to watch Flying Paper: “We wanted to show the truth in a simple way, through a small story.’’
‘’I hope the film sends a humanizing message that children in Gaza are like all children in the world,” says Hill.
The play Tales of a City by the Sea is a unique and poetic journey into the lives of ordinary people in the besieged Gaza strip prior to, during and after its bombardment during the winter of 2008. Jomana, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Shati (beach) refugee camp in Gaza falls in love with Rami, an American born Palestinian doctor and activist who arrives on the first Free Gaza boats in 2008. Their love is met with many challenges forcing Rami to make incredible decisions the least of which is to take a dangerous journey through the underground tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt. Although on the surface this love story appears to explore the relationship between diaspora Palestinians and Palestinians under occupation, there is a broader and more universal theme that emerges – one of human survival and tenacity. Tales of a City by the Sea avoids political pitfalls, ideological agendas and clichés by focusing on the human story of the people in Gaza. Although the play’s characters are fictional, the script is based on real life events and is a product of a collection of real stories the author Samah Sabawi and her family have experienced during the events of the past several years. Sabawi has written most of the poetry in the play during the three-week bombardment of Gaza in 2008/2009.
The writer Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Canadian-Australian published writer, commentator and playwright. She has travelled the world and lived in its far corners, yet always felt as though she was still trapped in her place of birth Gaza. The war torn besieged and isolated strip has shaped her understanding of her identity and her humanity. So what else could Sabawi do but to indulge in Gaza’s overwhelming presence and to succumb to tell the stories of her loved ones back home. Her most recent play Tales of a City by the Sea is dedicated to them and to all of those who still manage to have faith and hope even as the sky rains death and destruction.
The script is available to interested theatre makers upon request. Please email email@example.com for more information.
Follow Samah Sabawi on Twitter @gazaheart
Samah Sabawi’s professional bio can be found here
For more information on Samah Sabawi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samah_Sabawi
By: Haidar Eid
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The long walk to South Africa’s freedom is marked by two immensely tragic events: the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the Soweto Uprising in 1976, both of which led to the galvanizing of internal and international resistance against the apartheid regime. Ultimately, these events would lead to the long-called for release of Nelson Mandela and to the end of one of the most inhumane systems the world has ever seen.
Without Sharpeville and Soweto, among other landmarks towards victory over settler colonialism, South Africa would still be ruled by a minority of fanatic, white settlers claiming to fulfill the word of (their) God.
Palestine’s long walk to freedom has gone through similar harrowing events, beginning with the 1948 Nakba to the latest eight-day onslaught on Gaza.
In order to understand Gaza in 2012, one ought to trace its origin back to 1948. Two thirds of the Palestinians of Gaza are refugees who were kicked out of their cities, towns, and villages in 1948. In After the Last Sky, the late Palestinian thinker Edward Said argues that every Palestinian knows perfectly well that what has happened to us over the last six decades is “a direct consequence of Israel’s destruction of our society in 1948…”
The problem, he argues, is that a clear, direct line from our misfortunes in 1948 to our misfortunes in the present cannot be drawn, thanks to “the complexity of our experience.”
At 139 square miles, Gaza is the largest refugee camp on earth, a reminder of the ongoing Nakba. The inhabitants of Gaza have become the most unwanted Palestinians, the black heart that no one wants to see, the “Negroes” of the American south, the black natives of South Africa, the surplus population that the powerful, macho, white Ashkenazi cannot coexist with.
In 2008-9, Gaza was bombed by Apache helicopters and F-16 jets for 22 days, killing more than 1400 civilians. As if that was not enough, Israel decided to return to Gaza in 2012 and repeat the same crimes in eight days, this time killing more than 175 civilians and injuring 1399. These are massive losses for a population of just over 1.5 million people.
Israel’s airstrikes, which damage essential infrastructure and terrify the civilian population, are a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Even more, they are war crimes forbidden under international humanitarian law, specifically the Geneva Conventions.
Yet Israel consistently gets away with war crimes. The official, government-based “international community” does not seem interested in the suffering of the native Palestinians. The much-admired, “better than Bush” American president, Obama, thinks that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” The same right does not apparently apply to Palestinians.
Likewise, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague believes that Hamas is “principally responsible” for the current crisis, as well as the ability to bring it most swiftly to an end. This is in spite of the deadly siege imposed on Gaza for more than five years, so much so that Israel even used calorie counting to limit the amount of food that entered Gaza during the blockade.
The fact that Palestinians in Gaza are not born to Jewish mothers is enough reason to deprive them of their right to live equally with the citizens of the state of Israel. Hence, like the black natives of South Africa, they should be isolated in a Bantustan, in accordance with the Oslo terms. If they show any resistance to this plan, they must be punished by turning the entire Strip into an open-air prison.
Both the US and the UK display deliberate and unconscionable ignorance in the face of the brutal reality caused by Israel to Gaza. As a result of Israel’s blockade on most imports and exports and other policies designed to punish Palestinians, about 70 percent of Gaza’s workforce is now unemployed or without pay, according to the UN, and about 80 percent of its residents live in grinding poverty.
But don’t Obama and Hague know this?!
As Hamid Dabashi put it:
Obama is fond of saying Israelis are entitled to defend themselves. But are they entitled to steal even more of Palestine, terrorise its inhabitants and continue to consolidate a racist apartheid state…? Was South Africa also entitled to be a racist apartheid state, was the American south entitled to slavery, India to Hindu fundamentalism?
The only option for Palestinians is to follow the same route as the South African struggle. The South African internal campaign aimed to mobilize the masses on the ground rather than indifferent governments around the world. What hope could they have gotten from the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Helmut Kohl? It was left to ordinary South Africans and global citizens to show their moral rejection of crimes committed by the ugly apartheid system.
In South Africa’s long walk to freedom, there was no compromise on respect for basic human rights. Apartheid’s attempts to point fingers at “black violence” and “intrinsic hatred” toward Western civilization and democracy, did not hold water.
Similarly, international civil society, and some governments, have seen through Israel’s propaganda campaign where the aggressor is turned into the victim. Across the years, Palestinians have been completely dehumanized. Instead of Reagan and Thatcher, we have Obama and Hague, blaming the victim and condemning resistance to occupation, colonization, and apartheid.
But South Africans did not wait for the American administration to “change its mind.” The global BDS campaign, steered by South African anti-apartheid activists, coupled with internal mass mobilization on the ground, was the prescription for liberation, away from the façade of “independence” based on ethnic identities. Similarly, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions has been gathering momentum since 2005. Gaza 2012, like Soweto 1976, cannot be ignored: it demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity.
Gaza 2012 has, undeniably, given a huge impetus to this process by making all Palestinians inside and outside of historic Palestine realize that “Yes, We Can!” We are no longer the weaker party, the passive victim who does not dare bang on the walls of Ghassan Kanafani’s trunk in Men in the Sun, but rather Hamid in All That is Left To You, the Palestinian hero who decides to act.
Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor withAl-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.
Original article appeared here https://talesofacitybytheseadotcom.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
Published on Nov 27, 2012 by TheRealNews
November 08, 2012
Mohammed Jakhbir leans back, braces himself, and then leaps off the roof of a Khan Yunis hospital building, flipping backwards before landing on the next roof over. He whoops with delight at performing the dangerous feat, his favorite of the moves he practices with his team — the first parkour group in the Gaza Strip.
Parkour, also known as free running, is an extreme sport that involves getting around or over urban obstacles as quickly as possible, using a combination of running, jumping, and gymnastic moves including rolls and vaults.
Practitioners leap from roof to roof, run up the side of buildings until they flip backwards, vault over park benches, or cartwheel along walls.
In Gaza, it’s still a novelty, and as Jakhbir and four members of his 12-man crew demonstrate their skills in the grounds of the southern city’s Nasser hospital, a crowd of patients and doctors look on, some filming with their cell phones.
“He’s like Spiderman!” says one onlooker as 23-year-old Jakhbir runs up a wall, seemingly defying gravity as he scales the facade.
As the crowd grows, the team decides to move to a quieter spot. Their practice sessions are occasionally interrupted when onlookers call the police to complain, and they prefer to avoid having to make a run for it.
“When we first started practicing, we could do it anywhere. But gradually we found people would complain and the police would come. It became a game, we’d practice until they arrived and then run awa
y,” Jakhbir said with a laugh.
He’s been practicing parkour for seven years, ever since his friend Abdullah showed him a documentary called “Jump London.” It instantly appealed to them.
“We would watch clips and try to imitate the moves that we saw. Gradually we started to make our own clips,” he says.
“Now sometimes people even request that we make clips to show them certain moves. It’s been a long journey for us, seven years, but now we have a real team.”
Jihad Abu Sultan, 24, joined the team four years ago after seeing some of Jakhbir’s clips on YouTube.
He had a background in both kickboxing and kung-fu, but saw something different in parkour.
“It uses physical strength more than any other sport … I was so impressed by it, especially the jumping involved,” he says.
One of Abu Sultan’s specialities is a move in which he flips his body in a full circle with one hand resting on a wall for him to pivot around.
He’s also an accomplished tumbler, throwing himself along the ground in a series of handsprings, rolls and twists.
“Parkour teaches us to overcome obstacles,” he says. “It makes me feel free, it makes me feel my body is strong, that I can overcome anything.”
But practicing parkour in Gaza hasn’t been easy.
At times they’ve had to shift practice locations because the areas have been targeted by Israeli air strikes. And both Abu Sultan and Jakhbir have battled disapproval from their families.
“At first, my parents forbade it,” admits Abu Sultan.
“They tried to stop me, especially after I was injured, but they couldn’t. It’s in my blood.”
Jakhbir’s parents told him to stop practicing parkour and find a job. He graduated with a degree in multimedia from Gaza’s Islamic University, but has been largely unemployed ever since.
“They told me there was no future to it,” he says with frustration.
“They need to understand that sport is something very important. Athletes can raise Palestine’s name throughout the world.”
Jakhbir and other Gaza Parkour members did just that earlier this year, when an Italian group called Unione Italiana Sport Per Tutti invited them to Italy.
“They were able to make our biggest dream come true, which was to get past the biggest obstacle of all — the Israeli checkpoint — and travel abroad,” Jakhbir says.
The trip took them to Rome and four other Italian cities, where they met with other enthusiasts, showing off their skills and learning a few new ones.
“We talked to people about our lives in Gaza, that we’re living under a siege, and in a continually tense situation. We face financial, social and political obstacles,” Jakhbir recalls.
They’ve spray painted “Gaza Parkour forever” on some of the walls, but they acknowledge an uncertain future.
Jakhbir and Abu Sultan say they’d like to continue parkour professionally, and are hoping to eventually win either local or international support that would allow them to commit to the sport full-time.
“Parkour teaches us we can overcome our problems even if we fail once or twice,” says Jakhbir. “We have to try and we can achieve our goals in life.”
This article appeared in Jakarta Globe
“My story is marked by violence, persecution, arrests, abuse and resistance,” writes Matte
It has been almost two years now since we wrote our manifesto. We called it a manifesto, but in reality, I’m not sure what it was.
Was it a manifesto, or was it a cry for help? Perhaps, an accusation, or even perhaps a demand to the world and to ourselves; a demand for change from the outside and from within.
It was before the uprisings began around us, and they have been roaring the last two years in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain. But we had felt like shouting in the dark, and while this raging had brought light into the darkness of the dictatorships around us, the night around us has not thinned even a bit. No, if anything, it has only become darker.
We had come out from under the rubble in 2009, when Israel had embarked on what they liked to call a “war” – which in actuality had been a massacre – leaving 1,385 people dead, among them 318 children. They left Gaza in ruins.
We had built up Gaza again with our bare hands, even though cement was blockaded; we had buried our loved ones and tried to cover the holes in our hearts which they left. A year later, we regained the strength to shout out our unbearable situation to the world, and to unite for a fight against the hell we were – and are – living in.
We too organised large demonstrations, even though they were overshadowed by the revolutions taking place in the surrounding countries. Our demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip began on March 15, 2011, bringing out a large part of the population onto the streets. We wanted to achieve the unity of our parties and leaders – Hamas and Fatah – who in the quest to have seize power and wealth have betrayed our land of Palestine and the dreams and demands of our youth.
For this we demonstrated, for this we put in weeks of work to bring the people of Gaza to the streets, for this we were knocked down by thugs on the streets, for this we have been arrested and abused.
And for this goal, we achieved what first had seemed promising: Discussions, negotiations and unity efforts by our leaders. And still, all of that ended up in empty promises.
Manifesto? That sounds too fierce, like a struggle that might produce victory. But we are tired, two years later. Tired of the empty promises surrounding us. There is a peace process, but one that is an insult to the word “peace”, and that makes one wonder for whom such a farce is still seriously maintained.
Since 2006, the ongoing siege punishes us daily – we could mention all the UN conventions it violates, as if that wasn’t mentioned enough already. Collective punishment for all of us, for having elected the wrong party, for having held one Israeli soldier who is now free, while thousands of our prisoners languish in Israeli jails. Collective punishments for being Palestinians, for being born in Gaza.
And that siege means that our hospitals regularly declare a state of emergency because they don’t have enough medicine or medical equipment. This siege means that we are literally sitting in the dark most of the time – without connection to the internet and thus without any connection to the outside world – because there is no electricity.
It also means that the discourse in the media is about whether there is enough food coming in, whether the siege has lifted a bit and if now there are enough sorts of Israeli chips packets in our supermarkets. Like we are animals in a zoo and the question is whether we are fed enough. We are, I can tell you. We don’t need your aid packages, we don’t need your chips, nor your bread.
We had well-functioning factories, which were bombed away. We had rich land that could produce not only enough food for us, but enough to export it to the whole world. If that land wasn’t raped daily by Israeli bulldozers, and if we weren’t forbidden to enter by military declarations. There is still an ongoing siege, keeping us needy like beggars – and we get bread instead of rights.
There are talks about unity and re-elections, consisting of words which are so empty that it is not even worth listening to them.
And then there are the new Arab governments. The new Egypt, which wants to open the Rafah border crossing in order to no longer be complicit in imprisoning us in our 5 by 20 km hell. But even with so many visits by Hamas to Cairo, it’s still just words. When will this happen? When will there be open borders instead of just assurances? When will our children no longer be born into a world where there is no freedom, no adequate medical care, no work, no future, nothing but violence and falling bombs?
We are still young enough to fight for our own future, not only for that of our children, and yet old enough to be tired. Tired of the daily struggle for survival, which distracts us from our dreams. Tired of our own government, which meets our hopes with violence.
Story of resistanceWe are still young enough to fight for our own future, not only for that of our children, and yet old enough to be tired. Tired of the daily struggle for survival, which distracts us from our dreams. Tired of our own government, which meets our hopes with violence.
I still regularly keep in touch with people in Gaza. The talk is usually about the lack of electricity, bombs in the night, graduates with no job opportunities, the tight grip of the Hamas government, and walls that are nearly impossible to scale. Yes, mainly they talk about leaving. Leaving Gaza, leaving this prison and dumpster of the world. Many of my friends left like I did, and many more want to.
We wrote this manifesto because we wanted to live. Not because we wanted to be tortured, arrested and sacrificed. No, we are young enough to demand a future for ourselves, and we don’t see a future for us in Gaza right now.
My friends and I were forced to leave by a Gaza that has been made unbearable by violence and arrests through Hamas. A future in Gaza has been robbed from us by a siege that leaves us no jobs or opportunities. Nevertheless, even though we might be leagues apart and spread throughout the world, we will never cease to see a future for Gaza. Palestine, Gaza, that is our land, that is where we belong.
There’s an olive tree in my garden, and I have always dreamed of seeing my children playing under it. Wherever I might be now, one day my children will be playing under this olive tree, in a free Palestine, without fear for their lives, and that is what I will keep fighting for.
Yes, we are weary. But still, my story – and the stories of all the other amazing youth of Gaza – is and always will be a story of resistance, of resilience. Of always coming back to the land we belong to. We carry the hope of a free Gaza, a free Palestine and a future there for us in our hearts, and in our hands, in our daily work.
We struggle every day against our obstacles and for our dreams, and you can see that in all the amazing creativity coming out of Gaza, in our art, poems, writing, videos and songs, you can hear it and meet us in the talks we give all over the world.
Yes, we wrote a manifesto, and maybe that was just the bright and loud outcry of the beginning of a journey, whose path is hard and tiring, thorny and also often very quiet and dark. But it is always there.
So two years later, we say: We will be free. We will live. We will have peace. And we are always out there, fighting our daily struggle, full of the resistance we inherited from a long struggle for Palestine. We live and write and say and sing silent or load manifestos every day. Just listen to us.
Mohammed Matter ‘Abu Yazan’, from Gaza, is a political activist, writer and a member of Gaza Youth Breaks Out movement. He is currently in Germany, about to resume his studies.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Source: Al Jazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/201210159115846939.html