My Beloved HomelandI chose the title of the first film presented My Beloved Homeland to be the title of the film programme. Jordan emerged amidst hard circumstances and at turbulent times, witnessing being ruled and occupied. No sooner had it acquired its independence in 1946 than the Palestine Nakba befell the Arab World, and million of refugees were displaced from Palestine. The majority of these refugees were placed in Jordan. In the 19th century, the current capital Amman began a period prosperity as a result of trade with Syria and Palestine in addition to earlier influxes of Circassians who at the time arrived with the Ottoman army. Subsequent generations of Palestinians were born in Jordan; the Nakba was followed by the setback Naksa in 1967, and then the Iraqi wars, which have all contributed to enriching the diverse fibre of the Jordanian community.
The first film in this programme My Beloved Country is directed by Abdallah Kawash in 1964. Only a trailer of the film is included, and demonstrates the vision and nature of filmmaking during the sixties, which, undoubtedly, persisted until the early nineties. The films are committed to the Arab Palestinian cause, and joined ranks in resisting the alien entity which cultivated itself in the heart of the Arab Nation, hindering its growth and causing its progress to derail to the armament race and successive wars, which exhausted its powers at a time when it was high time to establish a renaissance after ridding itself of the heavy burden of occupation.
In the second film, the protagonist Kamal is viewed by his brother Hosni as a hero, and the limp he developed due to the heroic act he did on the front is a disfiguration that he is proud of. Hosni bought Hussein, Kamal’s son, a military suit as a present, establishing in the kid’s mind the inevitability of struggle. However, the little kid in My Beloved Homeland has a neighbour at the periphery of the camp that will grow up in poverty and destitution. When he goes to school on a rainy day, his bare feet will be covered with dirt on the muddy road of the camp. This child can’t help but feel joy with shoes donations that have just arrived to refugee schools. However, this joy will vanish into thin air together with the pair of shoes when he fails to estimate the size of his feet. The plot of this second short film, The Shoe, directed by Mohammad Alloh in 1986, featured Al-Baqa’a camp was inspired by a story written by Mohammad Tommalieh entitled About Shoes.
Faraj Darwish was also born and grew up in Al-Baqa’a Camp. Yet, he grew up to be stout hearted and strong until he managed to acquire the title of Jordan Golden Champion in boxing, when he was not yet twenty-one. In Sandra Madi’s documentary Full Bloom we get acquainted with Faraj the depressed champion, languid and helpless in front of the decision of the Olympic commission, suspending and banning him from training with the national team. Faraj refused to fight against an Israeli boxer in a game held in Turkey. He is paying the high bill of his choice and is saving no effort in his attempt to be reinstated in the team. He soothes himself by dreaming up hopes of leaving the homeland, imaging that another team would adopt him and he would become an Olympic champion, because an Olympic champion is unforgettable.
Remind Me to Remember to Forget by Oraib Toukan (2006) is a video about the collective memory of Palestinians whose identities have been coloured by relocation, but also about the collective memory of the entire Middle East. After the Israeli assault against Lebanon in 2006, Oraib tries, using a pen that erases rather than writes, to forget the memory of the reality, and the skewed media coverage, of the war while she was in the USA. This time, Israel will attack Gaza.
In Shawahed (2009), Firas Taybeh, who considered himself fully local and from Amman won’t be able to create a symbolic cemetery with three friends to commemorate the Gaza martyrs, and discovers that his artistic expression notwithstanding its form is conditional upon the time, place and conditions. Meanwhile, Eyad Hamam in his film Deaf Countries uses the eloquent sign language to summarise the state of Arab countries by representing the shapes of their names.
Ala’ Younis is an artist, filmmaker and a curator. Her show at Darat al Funun in Amman (2009), reinterpreted the inherited Palestinian narrative. The show recollected historical and political failures in the Arab world, and attempted to look into the conditions in which these failures became personal ones. Younis’ filmography includes: Nahr el Barid (2007), Broken Plurals (2007), Nefertiti (2008), Six Days (2009), Over Jerusalem (2009) and End of September (a work in progress). In November 2009, Younis became the acting director of Darat al Funun, a non-profit art institution based in Amman, Jordan.