Providing space for Palestinian film

The Haifa Independent Film Festival (HIFF) was started by a group of friends with a background in cinema and cultural management. After seeing there were several festivities around the world and festivals also featuring Palestinian and Arab productions, they decided it was time to have this kind of initiative at home, managing director and co-founder of HIFF, Lena Mansour, told Palestine Monitor.

The purpose of the film festival was not to only present films from Palestine and the Arab world but also to encourage an independent film industry in Palestine, to make Haifa a legitimate cultural capital in the Arab world, to create a festival that would bring all cultural actors together and represent culture from the entire Arab world and to create a festive and positive event that would make Haifa celebratory for an entire week while involving all local Palestinians and Arab venues and small business, Mansour explained.

As Haifa is situated within the ‘State of Israel’ creating an independent event, free of all governmental and organisational interference is seen as a challenge within the colonial state. HIFF is limited to independent Arab businesses and cooperatives to engage and support their festival. The festival doesn’t rely on funding, but more on the support and involvement of the local community. They want to remain a low budget independent festival that is mainly put together by volunteers’ hands.

Still, there is cooperation between them and the West Bank. Mansour told Palestine Monitor, for example, the Film Lab Palestine from Ramallah, who organises the Days of Cinema, are in full support of them. HIFF also gives Film Lab access to outside markets, helping them bring Arab cinema to Haifa.

The whole point of HIFF is to gather people outside their own beliefs and borders. ‘It is a gathering of narratives from the crazy Arab World, Mansour said. The stories in the films expose love, hatred, war, lust and all different types of issues. Moreover, there is also screenings of international selections, mostly from Africa this year, which tell stories Haifa’s local viewer can understand.

This year’s film selection gives highlight to Palestinian productions, such as the opening film Wajib, directed by Annemarie Jacir, a series of shorts from Palestine, as well as Ghost Hunting directed by Raed Andoni. The festival will also screen “Much Loved” from Morocco which was banned in many parts of the Arab world.

Mansour told Palestine Monitor that they want to keep expanding, to be visible on the international and Arab film scene. They want to make Haifa important in culture, and to become one of the most important cultural events and film festival in the Arab World.

The HIFF will be held in different venues around Haifa, from the 22nd to the 27th of March. In total, 50 movies, between fiction, documentaries short and long and also kids’ movie are going to be screened during the festival.

Source: Palestine Monitor