The life and works of Palestinian filmmaker Michel Khleifi will be celebrated in London at the Shabbak Festival featuring his films and the films of others. Khleifi produced the West Bank’s first documentary film in 1980 “Fertile Memory”Michel Khleifi
For many years, Michel Khleifi was the ultimate voice of Palestinian cinema. Emerging from the ashes of PLO resistance cinema, the Nazareth-born, Brussels-educated and based filmmaker was the leader of the so-called ‘new Palestinian cinema’ of the ’80s ─ a movement that ventured to break the dominant stereotypical representation of Palestinians and create a new space that links Palestine’s destroyed past with its austere present and uncertain future.
Always deemed controversial by Arab commentators and foreign critics alike, Khleifi’s films were the first to capture Palestine’s true soul, the first to depart from the jingoistic works of previous generations to present rich portraits of a complex reality; of an atypical land and its atypical inhabitants.
In nine films that range between documentary and fiction narratives, Khleifi has developed a recognisable set of symbols, themes, characters and aesthetics that have become a key part of Palestine’s collective memory.
He made history in 1980 with the documentary “Fertile Memory,” the first feature produced in the West Bank; yet it wasn’t until 1987’s “Wedding in Galilee” that Khleifi became an artist of international renown.
Winning the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 and the Golden Seashell award at the San Sebastian Film Festival the same year, “Wedding” ─ a chronicle of wedding in small Palestinian village disrupted by the attendance of intrusive Israeli guests ─ was the film that put Palestinian cinema on the world film map.
To celebrate his 65th birthday, the London-based Shubbak Festival of contemporary Arab Culture is celebrating Khleifi’s career in its current edition by having him curate this year’s film programme. The line-up is comprised of a selection of his own films along with a number of European and Arab titles that address some of the themes and concerns of his own work.
Arab and European films presented in the programme include Maroun Bagdadi’s gritty Lebanese Civil War drama, “Out of Life” (1991); Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s classic cross-culture love story, “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974); and Kamal Aljafari’s Palestinian experimental documentary of displacement and agonising stillness, “Port of Memory” (2010).