Film workshop hunts every-day-life in the refugee camp

2nd report by the int'l Sumud brigade 2010 in Ein el Hilweh, Lebanon
Elisa, Ulrike & Mohammad
Already on Sunday evening, the first brain storming supplied the basic idea of the documentary film. The link between the short film workshop for the youth and the documentary film of the international participants could be elegantly established by the idea of turning selected teenagers into the main film character: Show me YOUR camp!

In this way, the teenager, also making his own short film, will show the place which formed his personality and options: the camp. Along with two selected teenagers, the every-day-life of youth in the camp is to be shown. By this the audience can get an impression of the situation, the daily struggles and they ways and means to succeed them.

The arrival of Arab Lotfi, the Lebanese film maker and the leader of the work shop meant the actual beginning of the workshop. A summarized presentation of the film concept and a discussion with Ms. Lotfi took place. Teams were formed to cover the themes. For the first shooting days, two teams were to collect images inside the camp, while the third was to deliver scenes of the surroundings, the surrounding fences and from the hill above. After an introduction in video filming, the groups left for the hunt. Meanwhile the six teenagers from the camp received a first introduction in using the video camera brought by the delegation and on the basics of filming, before they made their first trials in shooting. At the end, they got the task to find an idea for a one-minute film, which was to be realized on the next day.
In the late afternoon, the three participant teams came back from their first tour in the camp, already carrying film material. This was actually beyond the expected first observations of the camp. The shots were screened to be discussed by the whole group. Critic, scence selection and development ideas were made. Beside impressive shots in the market, two interviews were made in a pharmacy and in a restaurant. Furthermore, one of the teams managed to enter a family house and to interview an elder couple. The family they met is facing a complicated burocratic problem: an old unnoticed mistake of one burocrate turned one of their daughters into a boy. For the moment this means the loss of social support, having a "son" on paper, theoretically able to feed the family. Theoretically also because the Palestinians are deprived of the right to work in 70 jobs, which results in a huge rate of unemployment in the camp. The tiny social support is important for the survival of families with "sons".

After meeting "sons" existing only on papers, the team met families with sons who are real, but do not exist on paper. Many PLO activists had to leave Palestine, Jordan and other countries in the 1970ies to join the Palestinian resistance based in Lebanon. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the withdrawal of the PLO from Lebanon, for different reasons these people had no possibilities to return to the countries they had come from. The Lebanese government is still refusing to register these people and their children. They do not posses ID cards and hence are not allowed to leave the camp. Their life circle is limited to the one single square kilometer which makes the camp surface.

To chill out in the evening, all participants went to the bank of the Awali river, a beloved part of Sidon, where many bars and restaurants offer a nice atmosphere beside river and nature.

On Wednesday morning, the film targets were precisely defined based on the experiences of the day before. Two teams went for filming in the camp, while the third group received the task to document the short-film workshop. Two of the teenage participatns had a film idea, for which the first rehearsals were made.

The teams had to come back earlier in the afternoon to meet the representatives of the Islamic Jihad movement, who came to visit the centre. Islamic Jihad is the second Islamic resistance movement in Palestine and is mainly based in Gaza. Abu Ubaida, the movement’s representative in Lebanon explained to the SUMUD international brigade the thinking and the political program of the movement. Based on a modern view of Islam, Palestine and armed struggle as the way of liberation, the Islamic Jihad has in comparison to Hamas a more crystalline view in both ideology and political program. They criticized the participation of Hamas in the parliamentary elections 2005. In their view, this meant an indirect recognition of the authority established by the Oslo Agreement and moving from resistance to an authority under occupation. But refusing all kinds of internal conflicts, Islamic Jihad avoids confrontations with the Palestinian Authority and stresses the necessity of national unity based on a resistance program.

After the visit, the teams went back to the streets to collect more film material. Deadline of this tour was 8 PM, where everybody was to go back to the centre to receive a prominent visitor: the famous Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled.

Leila Khaled had become famous in the late 1960s by hijacking an airplane – in what was the first guerrilla action of this kind in the Palestinian struggle. For the first time the international community was forced to become aware of the the Palestinian people’s situation. Furthermore, she was the first woman to participate in armed struggle, which actually had an influence on the perception of the role of women in the resistance movement.
She is a living legend and an icon for the Palestinian people, her picture carrying a Kalashnikov went through the media of the whole world.

As Leila Khaled stated, after living for over 20 years in tents in refugee camps, waiting for the UN to fulfill their promise, the Palestinians eventually realized that they had to get active themselves and fight for their rights.

Answering the question about her position towards the Palestinian resistance movement today she pointed out that there exist many forms of resistance, armed struggle just as much as civil resistance to reach the final aims. An important part would be to refuse further banishment to other countries, to keep the refugee camps as strategic bases using them to unite their power there. Apart from that she considers the solidarity movements around the world and the boycott campaigns against Israel as an important support in the Palestinians’ fight for freedom. Finally though, the only way to really defeat such a strong military power as Israel would still be the armed struggle.

Her point of view on the islamistic resistance movement such as Hamas is ambivalent, on one hand she pointed out that support any kind of Palestinian freedom fighters is necessary, on the other hand she regards the politics of Hamas as counterproductive since according to her they divide the unity of Palestinian people. Nevertheless she accepts the Hamas government as democratically elected and therefore the choice of the Palestinian people.
Her solution for Palestine is a democratic state where Jews and Palestinians live peacefully together with equal rights. She keeps her optimism alive saying that she is sure they can do the job and that one day we will all meet again in Haifa - the city she originally comes from.