Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Toronto's Different Spotlight

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Toronto's Different Spotlight

Article excerpt

When one thinks of lines and Palestine in the same sentence, the mind automatically thinks of checkpoints. But on a rainy Saturday outside Bloor Cinema in Toronto, lines and Palestine had to do with the hottest ticket in the city: opening night of the second annual Toronto Palestine Film Festival (TPFF), where director Cherien Dabis' debut film "Amreeka," a story about a Palestinian woman who immigrates to America from Ramallah with her teenage son, was making its Canadian premiere.

"Amreeka" screened to a sold-out crowd who laughed, cheered and applauded the film. In the past few years, Palestine film festivals have become popular in such cities as London, Chicago, Boston and Houston, to name a few, and now, in its second year, Toronto has joined this league. Coming off the success of last year's festival, TPFF organizers decided to focus on non-stereotypical cinema, since most Western films represent Arabs as harem girls, Kalashnikov-wielding terrorists or dark-skinned camel riders. From 200 submissions organizers selected a variety of genres, old and new films, some making their Canadian premieres and many covering diverse aspects of Palestinian identity or daily hardships.

TPFF screened various films focusing on the Gaza attack and its aftermath, including "Missing Gaza," "I am Ghazza" and "Rough Cut." There was also a screening of the first feature film made in Gaza, "Tale of the Three Jewels," by acclaimed director Michel Khleifi.

Water is another important theme in films about the West Bank and Gaza, where water is a luxury and only 15 percent of the population has ready access to it. "Drying up Palestine" discussed water issues in the West Bank; "About the Sea" told the story of young men and women who lament the sea they can no longer reach, and "By Land or By Water: Gaza Under Siege," filmed by members of LifeSource Project (a Palestinian-led collective which addresses the regional water crisis), discussed the blockade.

Other films featured tributes to Palestinian filmmakers or icons including Mustafa Abu Ali, the founder of Palestinian cinema and the PLO's film division, who died in July 2009. Abu Ali's documentary about Lebanon's Nabatiya refugee camp, "They Do Not Exist," was discovered in the ruins of 1982 Beirut and salvaged. …

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