The Palestinian Film Festival Australia 2017

The Palestinian Film Festival Australia is a chance to celebrate Palestinian life and culture through film, art and creativity. Palestine, hanging on by a thread, is a nation of turmoil, yet exquisite beauty. Kicking off the 2017 festival with her documentary, Stitching Palestine, director Carol Mansour takes us on a cinematic journey of Palestine through the eyes of women. The narrative connects each woman with a memory of ‘their’ home, Palestine, comparing it to the reality of today. The film, translated with subtitles, is honest and liberating: qualities that need no translation.

The culture of the people is one thing that was not displaced. Celebrated is the beautiful art and practice that is traditional in Palestine; weaving, sewing, embroidery and most importantly, colour. The opening scene, balls and balls of cotton, the start of a motif understood by all; creativity. Stitching, in Palestinian culture, for a woman, is pride more than anything else. “Behind every stitch she hides a story, where the threads meet, the coming together of the people”. Inaash co-founder Malak Abdel-Rahim explains that since the Nakba, embroidery is more important than ever, and has always been to her, and her family. The generational and cultural importance of the thobe to Palestinian women proves pride in their nation. Pointed out in the film, when an Israeli woman is seen wearing a Palestinian stitched thobe, it is clear that dress is not just cultural or political, it is a symbol of identity. And it is not just fabric; these women use colour and patterns in everyday life. From their kitchen floors made with sand tiles of geometric colour to the foods they cook there, colour and culture is everywhere. Each woman stitches her own thobe. As these twelve women stitch together their stories, they hope for a liberated and free Palestine to which they can return home.

The de jure sovereign State of Palestine is an amalgamation of Middle Eastern cultures, repression and politics. Carrying the Egyptian currency and Israeli leadership, Palestine’s capital East Jerusalem is not what it once was. Part of the Arab diaspora, the women tell their stories of hardship, happiness and heritage from the country their call home. A nation of people constantly ‘on the run’, these Palestinian women are making a change. An example is in the success of Mary Nazzal Bataynen, Human Rights Lawyer in Palestine, working to overcome political oppression and displacement of the people by creating work in hotels in Jerusalem, and fighting for the rights of others through legal mechanisms. She notes “everything wrong with the world…Palestine is a microcosm of that…”, something nobody should ever have to question of their nation.

The translation of the film to English is welcomed, however a picture tells a thousand words, the art of documentary, in some moments, not needing translation. The universal language of emotion, gesture and love is something that will never lose its meaning, regardless of language, place or culture. This highly recommended film Stitching Palestine is poignant, and truthful. What it means to be a woman, or a Palestinian woman, is celebrated through ethnicity, ritual and love. Embroidery from different regions mean different things, something irrelevant to a Sydney audience, but meaningful for friends and family of these women in the film; the personal touch moving. From the designs on the thobes of Bedouins and camels, to the hours spent sewing with colourful threads, this simple act of creating, is universally understood.

Mansour’s Stitching Palestine hems the beauty in creativity and the art of embroidery, whilst tailoring themes of displacement of the Palestinian people, human rights, nationalism, and love. The Palestinian Film Festival Australia premiers this relevant piece, sewing together the threads of a beautiful Middle Eastern story.

Jamie Binder

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