Cinema Jenin, one of Palestine’s largest and most impressive movie houses, is re-opening today thanks to international support after remaining closed for more than 20 years since the first Intafada in 1987.

The seeds for this €1m renovation project were sown in 2005 when Ismael Khatib’s 11-year-old son Ahmed was shot dead by the Israeli Army and the grieving father decided to donate his son’s organs to save the lives of Israeli children. Khatib’s action provided the inspiration for Marcus Vetter and Leon Schiller’s award-winning documentary The Heart Of Jenin.

A year later, Khatib opened the Cuneo Center for Peace for the children of Jenin’s refugee camp as an alternative for their street life. Among the centre’s activities, film courses were offered to the children for them to make short films, only to realize that they had no place to show them in.

Subsequently, Fakhri Hammad, a citizen of Jenin, Khatib and Vetter decided to bring the old cinema back to life with the support of a group of enthusiastic locals and foreigners.

Help has come from sources as diverse as the German Foreign Ministry, rock legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Kodak, Fortissimo Films and the Goethe Institut in Ramallah as well as several cinema equipment suppliers such as Kinoton, Bewegte Bilder Digital Cinema and Gierss.

The 400-seat cinema with digital and 3D projection facilities plans to show a programme mix of six daily showings of fiction films, documentaries, comedies, children’s films, Arabic classics and contemporary releases at a ticket price of 5 NIS (1 Euro). In addition, the garden surrounding the cinema has been transformed into an open-air cinema and cafeteria to provide Jenin’s only outdoor public space.

Today’s opening celebrations, which are being attended by Bianca Jagger along with many other dignitaries, will include the screening of documentary The Heart Of Jenin in the cinema and the launching of a mediatheque supported by the Goethe Institut.

Arabic dubbed versions of Alberto Arce’s To Shoot An Elephant, Amin Matalqa’s Captain Abu Raed and Rami Imam’s Hassan wa Morcus as well as Mohamed Bakri’s Jenin Jenin will be screened in the renovated venue over the next two days.

Meanwhile, the resurrection of Cinema Jenin has been chronicled by Markus Vetter and co-director Aleksei Bakri in a documentary entitled Cinema Jenin.

The co-production between Vetter’s company Filmperspektive, Berlin production house Boomtown Media and Tel Aviv-based sales agent Cinephil received support from such broadcasters as ARTE, SWR, and BR and funding from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, MFG Baden-Württemberg, German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Program and Israel’s Rabinovich Foundation.

The documentary is set to have its premiere at the first Cinema Jenin International Film Festival in April 2011.

The festival is intended to be one of several follow-up projects including the establishment of a local production and distribution company and the launching of Palestine’s first film school.