Tens of thousands of Palestinians have languished for over 65 years in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp, waiting to return home. Now, through his documentary, Mahdi Fleifel reveals an essential side of Palestinian exile that is often forgotten: the human side.
It was heartening that the Academy bestowed its highest honors this year to “Twelve Years a Slave,” a story about injustice and liberation, and recognizing America’s historic cruelty towards its people.
Maybe it is the curse of the oppressed to achieve their greatest recognition only when the primary injury of oppression is long over, after it can really help. Palestinians don’t have an easy time penetrating the Western cultural landscape. True, last year, the Academy short-listed “Five Broken Cameras,” the story of a village’s struggle against the security barrier in the West Bank, for Best Documentary. Although it didn’t win, the nomination generated attention.
But Mahdi Fleifel, the director of the 2012 documentary “A World Not Ours,” thinks that an essential side of the Palestinian story has been forgotten: the human side.
The global media feeds up stereotypes about aggressors, terrorists, or victims at best, he suggests in an interview with +972 Magazine from London. Even “Five Broken Cameras” is about the poor Palestinian villagers, little Davids struggling in the muddy hills of the West Bank against their Goliath. Their lives revolve around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What else is there?
On the face of it, Fleifel’s film about three generations of a Palestinian family living in the squalid in Ein el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon since 1948 doesn’t seem like the best candidate to break the typical victimized image of Palestinians.
Somehow, it does. It turns out the refugee camp is a little universe. In “one square kilometer with over 70,000 refugees,” ironies and contradictions abound. As the film opens he tells us that the name Ein el-Helweh means “the sweet spring,” over a background of a cool saxophone riff; while the camera pans over pockmarked walls and the rubble of buildings. In this anachronism lives a community of colorful characters, with heroes and legends, humor and fools. There is Fleifel’s cantankerous grandpa, loafing in a porch chair in an alley,...Read More