'To A Land Unknown'

Source: Cannes Directors’ Fortnight 

‘To A Land Unknown’

A delegation of Palestinian filmmakers is in Cannes, seeking both international support for projects and the opportunity to alter the discourse on how Palestinians are perceived internationally.

“A lot of the time, in western media, Palestinians are just a bunch of angry Arabs,” suggested Palestine-Denmark filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel, whose debut To A Land Unknown is playing in Directors’ Fortnight.  He hopes his film “can contribute a level of humanity to the discourse” on Palestinians.

“People don’t see us as people with dreams, and hopes and fears. I hope that’s what will resonate with audiences.”

To A Land Unknown is about the desperate attempts of two Palestinian men stranded in Athens, trying to reach Germany. It is a co-production between eight countries. “To make a Palestinian film, you have to really create your own pathway,” noted Fleifel. “No film is made the same way again. Every Palestinian film that gets made is a miracle.”

It began filming in Greece around the time of the October escalation of the Israel-Gaza war. “When we started filming, things had just kicked off,” said Fleifel. “It was on the minds of everyone. At one point, I had to tell  the actors – they were young guys in their mid-20s, sat on social media all night – that we have to try to focus on this for the next six weeks. This the best thing we can do.”

Fleifel is also taking part in the Palestinian doc showcase on May 19, with My Father’s House, which is being produced by Geoff Arboune of the UK’s Inside Out Films. 

Mohamed Jabaly Director Portrait_ photo by Mohamed Badarne

Source: Mohamed Badarne

Mohamed Jabaly

The showcase is a collaboration between the Palestine Film Institute, under the stewardship of Gaza-born, Norway-based Mohamed Jabaly, and Cannes Docs in which four Palestinian-directed documentaries-in-progress are being presented.

“We hope the film industry will increase their support and recognition for our filmmakers, continuing to uplift Palestinian stories, especially during these dark moments we live amid the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” said Jabaly. 

The other docs in the showcase are Alaa ‘Regash’ Aaliabdalla’s Palestine Comedy Club, produced by Charlotte Knowles of the UK’s Tough Crowd; The Myth Of Mahmoud, directed by Mayar Hamdan and Shaima Al-Tamimi and produced out of Qatar by Al-Tamimi, and Bilal Alkhatib’s Unmaking Of, produced by Alkhatib and Ala’ Abu Ghoush in Palestine and Paris-based Lebanese producer Tania El Khoury.

Alaa Shehada, an actor and comedian, is attending Cannes for the first time. He is one of the comedians who appears in Palestine Comedy Club, that follows five Palestinian comedians who write and tour a stand-up show.

“As Palestininans, we have a stereotype that we are living under occupation, and so we can’t be funny. How can you have a hard life and still be funny?” said Shehada. “With comedy, it breaks that. We become closer to people.”

At the Cannes market, Palestinian projects looking to generate buzz include Laila Abbas’ Thank You For Banking With Us, sold by MAD World, Rashid Masharawi‘s Ground Zero, and Tarzan and Arab Nasser’s Once Upon A Time In Gaza sold by Bac Films.

And despite having no festival base of their own, with no offical pavilion in the international village,“Palestinian cinema is one of the most regular, stable Arab cinema [presences] at festivals, all the time, every year,” said Alaa Karkouti, co-founder of pan-Arab outfit Mad Solutions, who runs the Arab Cinema Centre at Cannes.