Friday 17 November 2023

The Palestinians [1975]

 Dutch documentary filmmaker and photographer Johan van der Keuken, as an essay in Jump Cut appropriately observed about him, “works on the margins of the film industry and lets those on the margins of society whose voices are not usually heard speak through his films.” That statement is equally applicable to his stirring docu The Palestinians, which was, in parallel, deeply moving and filled with urgency. In this daring example of radical cinema – one that was so politically progressive that many of his fellow left-wing friends were perturbed by it – he boldly took the side of the forcibly displaced and infinitely persecuted Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, amidst squalor, desperation, despair, anger and incessant violence. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place – or, more specifically, the apartheid settler-colonialism of the Israeli occupation and the callous indifference of the Lebanese power structure – thus making them a tragically stateless people. Keuken punctuated the docu-essay with reflections on the industrialized massacre of the Jewish people by European fascism, which ironically segued into occupation, brutality, injustice and dislocation of the Palestinian people. With the context set and his political position clearly established, the guerilla work – shot on location in 1975, with grainy visuals manifesting the best of underground reportage and a startling sense of here-and-now – he trained his lens on individual and collective stories. We see women lamenting the destruction of their homes and the death of their kids; protesters defiantly displaying solidarity on the streets; old men pensively reminiscing their lost homes and lands; rebel fighters training by the day and breaking bread in the evening; and a schoolteacher cogently ensuring the kids know their history of oppression by heart.

Director: Johan van der Keuken

Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Short Film

Language: Dutch/Arabic

Country: Netherlands/Palestine

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