Palestinian Literature and Cinema
According to SMARTERCOMPUTING, the Palestinian region has maintained the characteristic of being one of the ” hot ” areas of the world, an area in constant tension, continually traversed by latent conflicts, at times exploding in real armed confrontations, at other times resulting in terrorist attacks and in harsh retaliation. For many years the object of the dispute was the very existence of the state of Israel, which was associated with the claims of the Palestinian people who, since the time of the British mandate, have called for the establishment of their own sovereign state. With the nineties, at least on a political level, the major problems of the region seem to be on their way to a solution, as between Israel and the Palestinians, with the consent of the neighboring countries (Egypt and Syria, mainly),
The population present in the region is constantly increasing, partly due to the incidence of natural movement (in the Palestinian component the rate of increase is around 3% per year, approximately double the rate of Israel), partly due to the influx of immigrant Jews. The state of Israel has almost 5 million residents (of which 3.7 are Jews), the residents of the West Bank exceed one million (including about 100,000 Israeli settlers), those of Gaza are well over 600,000, while the residents of Transjordan are they are around 3 million. Altogether there are about 10 million individuals who populate the Palestinian region which, roughly, extends over just under 35,000 km 2. Finally, a separate chapter is represented by the considerable mass of Palestinian refugees, who live confined in refugee camps located both in the region and in other Arab countries.
The cities of Palestine have had great development which, considering the entire region (therefore the area bounded to the west by the Mediterranean, to the east by the Syriac desert, to the south by the Sinai and to the north by the imposing mountainous bastion that has in Mount Hebron the higher relief), are structured on the one hand on the capitals, aligned along the direction of parallels, and including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and ῾Ammān (respectively with 350,000, 550,000 and one million residents), on the other on the coastal axis (Haifā, Tel Aviv and Gaza). Other important centers are Irbid, Holon, Petah Tikwa, Jericho.
Palestinian literature. – Palestinian writers and poets reflect in the literary field what their life experiences have been since 1948, a period that is indicated with the word Nakba (“catastrophe”). The 1967 war created a sharp rift between production before and after what has been referred to as Naksa (ie “second catastrophe”). Numerous are, in fact, Arab authors, and not only Palestinians, who write taking their cue from the political situation of the entire near-eastern area: poets such as Maḥmūd Darwīš (b.1941), Tawfīq Zayyād (b.1927), Samīḥ al -Qāsim (b.1939), Fadwà Ṭūqān (b.1926), are translated into several languages, and writers such as Ġassān Kanafānī (1936-1972) and Ǧabrā Ibrāhīm Ǧabrā (b.1926) write their works from exile.
However, we can already speak of specifically Palestinian literary production with the poet Ibrāhīm Ṭūqān (d. 1941), considered the precursor of Palestinian poetry of patriotic inspiration. In the narrative stands the name of Halil Baydas (1898-1948), who in 1920 published the novel al-Wāriṯ (“The Heir”) about the increasingly massive presence of European immigrants in Palestine. In 1934 Muḥammad ῾Uzza Drūza wrote the novel al-Mallāk wa al-simsār (“The owner and the matchmaker”) to denounce the means employed by the Zionists to induce Arab landowners to sell their land to Jewish organizations in Palestine. The narrative of the years between the two world wars should be remembered more as a historical testimony than for intrinsic literary merits.
In 1946 Isḥaq Mūsā al-Ḥusaynī published the allegorical novel Muḏakkirāt daǧāǧa (“Memoirs of a hen”), in which the narrator is a hen who describes the upheaval of her own hen house upon the arrival of foreign poultry, in front of which, among her companions, there are those who leave and there is who remains. In a symbolic key, a thorny theme appears for the first time that will be taken up in the following years by various writers, namely the controversy that opposes the Palestinians of the diaspora – first the refugees of 1948 and then those of 1967 – to those who remained at home. and they became citizens of Israel: on the one hand, that is, the current formed by writers such as Ġassān Kanafānī, Samīra ῾Azzām (1934-1967), Ǧabrā Ibrāhīm Ǧabrā, who in 1948 left the Palestine and who will write, idealizing it, of the lost homeland; on the other hand that of those who, like Emīl Ḥabībī (b.1922), remain ”
Ġassān Kanafānī, in Riǧāl fī ‘l-šams (“Men under the sun”), speaks of the flight of three Palestinians who, to escape the hunger of a refugee camp, face a terrible death,’ ‘asphyxiated’ ‘in a tankers heated by the sun, while in another short novel, Aid ila Hayfa ( “Return to Haifa”) returns a pair of Palestinians in Haifa, significantly in their old house inhabited by a family of Polish Jews escaped from Auschwitz. The poet and literary critic Ǧabrā Ibrāhīm Ǧabrā, from the distant ῾Irāq, also wrote symbolic novels on the Palestinian question, including al-Safīna (“The Ship”, 1969) and al-Baṯ an Walīd Mas῾ūd (“The research of Walīd Mas῾ūd”, 1978). On the other hand, the notable author is Emīl Ḥabībī, famous for having written in an ironic key in 1968 the collection of short stories Sudāsiyat al-ayyām al-sitta (“Sestina dei sei giorni”) and in 1974 the novel symbolizing the condition of the Arabs in Israel, al-Waqā’i al-Gariba fī ihtifā ‘Nahs Abi Said al-mutaša’il (“the strange events on the disappearance of the Pessottimista Happy Bane”).
In all literary production, from prose to poetry, the recurring theme is that of exile, deprivation of citizenship, anguish over the loss of one’s origins, and in this constant tenacity the writers underline, with deliberate fussiness, the ‘location or disappearance of Arab villages, often replaced by new Jewish settlements. On the linguistic level, the authors, who speak mostly in classical Arabic, use a particular lexicon, which always refers to the political situation of the region.
Palestinian cinema. – In 1968 the al-Fataḥ group was formed in Jordan, a collective of revolutionary filmmakers who set out to create an authentically Palestinian cinema at the service of the war of national liberation. The initiative did not go without a follow-up: in 1970 the PFLP was formed for the same purpose and the FDPLP was subsequently founded. In 1972 the three collectives merged into the ” Palestinian cinema group ” which elaborated its own manifesto of the future production, based on the centrality of the revolutionary cause and on the elaboration of a new aesthetic as an alternative to “capitalist cultural domination”.
A few months after its establishment, the Group was dissolved, while the collective originating from al-Fataḥ continued to work under the name ” Palestine Films ”, under the direction of the Information Section of the PLO. It is flanked by other bodies such as the art-culture section of the PLO, the DDLP artistic committee, the FPLF central information committee. In addition to numerous documentaries and topical films, these structures make films in which the document is mixed with fiction, according to one of the forms favored by the new revolutionary aesthetic.
The prominent directors are M. Abu ῾Alī and S. Nimr. To the former we owe the documentary With the soul and blood (1972), Scenes from the occupation in Gaza (1973) and They don’t exist (1975), which shows the daily life of a Palestinian camp in Lebanon; the second directs The Winds of the Revolution (1974), on the Omān guerrillas, Revolution: for whom? (1974), on the revolt against the British occupation in Yemen, Kafar Šūbā (1975), on the collaboration between Palestinian commandos and Lebanese villagers, Victory in his eyes (1976) over the lives of Palestinian children, The war in Lebanon (1977), The children of Palestine (1979), in collaboration with M. Mourier.
Among the directors who revealed themselves after the 1970s, the names of K. Ḥawwāl, R. Ḥaǧǧār, I. Šammūṭ, who directs films on art, A. Madanāt, author of Visioni Palestina (1978) on the figure of the poet and painter I. Gannām, and K. Ezzoubir (al-Zubayr) who in 1986 presented Histoire d’un peuple at the Annaba festival, in which he reconstructs some significant moments of the Palestinian struggle. While the best results are achieved by the films of M. Khleifi (H̱alifī) – Fertile Memory, Song of Stones -, the new generation, less engaged in political propaganda and more open to fiction, asserted itself during the 1980s and early Ninety with H. Ilyās (The mountain) and with some authors of the diaspora such as I. Musallam, M. Maṣrī, E. Sulaymān. Meanwhile, initiatives are multiplying, including those of international significance. In 1992 it was the first Palestinian film festival organized in East Jerusalem, which was attended by 21 directors (10 residing abroad, seven in the occupied territories, four in Israel), and in 1993, after the peace agreements, Palestinian filmmakers are been included in the Arab section of the Haifā festival. A significant role was played by G. Khleifi, director of the Palestinian Film Institute based in East Jerusalem and himself a documentary director.