Sunday, December 20, 2009

Beirut Journal Days #40-41: Chronicles of a Refugee--An Interview In 6 Parts

Part One

I sat down with Perla Issa to discuss her recent six-part film "Chronicles of a Refugee," which documents the living history of Palestinians in diaspora. She, along with Aseel Mansour and Adam Shapiro, travelled the globe (over 15 countries) to interview hundreds of Palestinian Refugees, hoping to "create a debate," she says, among Palestinians. This hope is unique to the documentary film world, actually. While there have been many films made about "the Palestinian issue" for western audiences, few, if any films about/for/by Palestinians, have been made. The significance of this approach cannot be understated. Instead of being objects in history, this film, in its approach, claims space for Palestinians to be the subject of their own hopeful liberation.

"[We started making this film with] the concept that we can have a film for ourselves. That we can educate ourselves. That we can speak to ourselves." This film, then, acts as a bridge for Palestinians to walk across. To one another. Each to each.

And this stepping into a new community, through "Chronicles," is not accidental.

"The idea was to create six parts, so that the film could become a sort of meeting point." If, for example, a family or community center shows one part per week, over the next month and a half a group may well spring up from these screenings. They may well engage in debate, in strategy discussions. From these discussions, these new groups can carry the work forward in ways that are specific to the needs of their own unique regional situations.

"So many Palestinians don't know each other," she explains. Though millions have had quite similar experiences, their shared travails have been forcibly isolated. Isolation, in extreme, is a torture tactic designed to break the will of the tortured. In the case of Palestinians, the dilution of the population has served a similar purpose. Spread to the ends of the earth, the geography of The Occupation prevents them from organizing in strategic ways. Indeed, it prevents them from strategizing at all.

Listening to Ms. Issa, I couldn't help but to think of June Jordan. Her entire concept for Poetry for the People, and poetry in general, is so closely related to this film. Poetry for her was the creation of "space where people can disagree, but stay in the same room." This desire is foundational. The stones from which our shared home is built upon. Thanks to the Gods for Perla Issa, and her unrelenting efforts to strengthen this foundation.

You can find, and buy, the film at:

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