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Letter from the editing room Paris, December 2007

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 12.01.2008:

By Annemarie Jacir

It has been more than five months since I have been away from Palestine. The Israelis are still denying me re-entry. I miss Ramallah. I miss the colour of the light and the sound of the night. I miss the people. I miss my friends and my family.

Every day I sit in the editing room, working on the images of my last film, Salt of This Sea. Paris is … far from Ramallah. In the editing room – daily – I see the images of the country I love and the people I love. I miss my crew.

Perhaps because I am far away, every detail of the images we filmed seem more vivid than before. I find myself scanning over the faces of people in the streets, noticing small details like the way the sidewalk falls into the road, or the way a tree bends to the side. I am obsessed with these images that I see daily.

I see in every detail the labour of love that this project was for myself and for my cast and crew. This film would not exist without them. I chose that the majority of the crew be Palestinian rather than bring in more experienced technicians from abroad. Experienced technicians would have been easier for the film, but then they would leave; and while Palestine is trying to build a film community, the most important work is building a local crew. When we began production, most of the crew had never worked on a film set before. People were hired from all across Palestine. Young, talented artists, including Shadi Habib Allah and Yazan Khalili, who were interested in cinema but had not worked before, were brought on board. Crew included other local filmmakers such as Enas Muthaffar, Riyad Ideis, and Mohannad Yacoubi, as well as newer filmmakers such as Mai Odeh and Georgina Asfour. Young people from villages all over the West Bank with no previous connection to the art world brought new energy to the set, finding their place in this collective project – Alaa Abu Radi who is a lawyer, Qais Sama’neh, a jeweller, Karam Sayeh and Samer Serisi from Nablus, Bashar Hasuneh from Abu Ghosh, and Murad Ismael, a DJ who, I am convinced, can do everything – to name only a few.

Throughout the weeks of pre-production and production, the cast and crew gradually found their way and together we grew and were able to make something that we all believed in. A solid film crew was created and the wheels turned beautifully. It was very important to hear from the crew that in the following months they would continue to find work on several other film productions, including four short films by crew members, as well as two feature films, including one by the prolific Palestinian filmmaker Rashid Masharawi, who has been an inspiration to many Palestinian artists and who has also focused his work on forming a local film crew over the years.

The difficulties of working on a low-budget Palestinian film with more than 67 actors, thousands of extras, and more than 80 locations are obvious. In addition, the film takes place in both the West Bank as well as in historic Palestine (1948). This meant that we had to be fluid and frequently move between Israel’s arbitrary and senseless borders. With the help of the French consulate, we applied for permits for the West Bank crew to work on the film inside the 1948 borders. Not surprisingly, not one single member was granted a permit. Again we applied, and again we were rejected.

Palestine has been taken away from me. These are some of the images and memories I am left with for now: Ramallah, Amari Camp, Jerusalem, Suba, Jaffa, Haifa, villages and towns across our land … My entry being denied is not a new story or a special story. Like every Palestinian, there is a return … and I hope that mine will be sooner rather than later.

In October, I received an e-mail from a friend whom I have not seen in more than one year. She wrote:

“I dreamt that you finished your film in exile, that the next-to-last scene ended in a frame that then jump-cut to a similar frame on a greyer European sky; and the main characters were trapped offshore unable to finish their story. Is it too defeatist rather than defiant?

Trapped. That’s how I see you right now. Trapped outside a cage.”

How did she know? Her description is perfect … trapped outside a cage. Looking at the grey European sky. Waiting.

Writer/director Annemarie Jacir has been working in independent film since 1994 and has produced a number of films including A Post-Oslo History (1998), The Satellite Shooters (2001), and like twenty impossibles (2003). Her work has screened in Cannes, Venice, Locarno, and Berlin. She also works as a freelance editor and cinematographer and has taught at Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, and Columbia University.

A Post-Oslo History (1998), The Satellite Shooters (2001), and like twenty impossibles (2003). Her work has screened in Cannes, Venice, Locarno, and Berlin. She also works as a freelance editor and cinematographer and has taught at Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, and Columbia University.

This Week in Palestine

January 2008

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