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Division and unity: Cinema in the Middle East Round-table

The round-table discussion “Division and Unity: Cinema in the Middle East” took place on Tuesday, November 18th at Stavros Tornes theatre, as part of the 49th Thessaloniki’s International Film Festival spotlight on Middle Eastern cinema. According to Dr. Hassan Βadawy, professor of History and Archeology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Middle East is a land of extremities, of faith in faithlessness, of being dogmatic about being non-dogmatic. ‘The major question for filmmakers from the Middle East is whether they can detach themselves from the current political situation or if they will reflect this reality of oppositions and contradictions in their work. Truth is something different than reality. Truth for the Middle East is that there is one god, one race, one man. Cinema should subvert itself and from the representation of reality move on to the presentation of man’s nature beyond color, race and dogma’.

Annemarie Jacir, director of the film Salt of this sea said: ‘My work is based on instinct and my films are for the public. Having experience living in Palestine, I cannot but always keep in mind that the country is under occupation and that three generations of people have been forced to become refugees since 1948. I feel responsible towards the people of Gaza that are starving and live without water or electricity’.

‘When lives are at stake, cinema adapts to the circumstances’, pointed out Panicos Chrysanthou, Cyprian director of the film Akamas. For him Cyprus is Middle East’s little sister where fanaticism, nationalism and human ambition have also led to conflicts. The history of Cyprus’ tragedy has a lot in common with Greek tragedies, according to Chrysanthou, since every abuse has its price. ‘It is hard to make films that deal with taboos. In a politically passionate society, being critical and talking about peace may cause animosity’.

Is it possible for a producer to work on a film that goes against his political views? That was the question asked to producers Ossama Bawardi and Marek Rozenabum. ‘Politics affects everyday life and cinema cannot be irrelevant to life’, said Palestinian Ossama Bawardi. ‘The starting point of every film is our personal judgement of reality’. ‘I would never work on something I object to, I set limits to what I do’, commented Israeli Marek Rozenabu.

Being an Israeli citizen, Ossama Bawardi faces the dilemma of accepting the Israel government’s funds or not. ‘I work with a director who is funded by Israel. Politics controls us and protects itself. While working with Israel‘s funding on a Palestine film, you have to change what you really want to say’. Marek Rozenabum expressed his disagreement: ’Censorship does not exist. Every Israeli citizen – Palestinian or not –who pays his taxes has the right to receive a fund’.

‘It is hard to be sure about the truth. For me criticism is based on my own subjective point of view’, said the Israeli film reviewer Dan Fainaru, when asked if his reviews are influenced by politics. ‘I prefer films which are not promoting a ready-to-wear truth regardless if I agree with it or not’.


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About Thessaloniki

Mcmahon Vanessa

Vanessa McMahon Covered the 13th and 14th, and 16th edition.
Catherine Esway has covered the 12th edition of Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Cécile Rittweger covered the  11th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Christine Marik's reported from 49th Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Past coverage from the 10th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival by Bruno Chatelin.

Through its tributes, it focuses both on discovering filmmakers with a unique cinematic point of view, and on the internationally recognized for their contribution to documentary.

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