The audio-visual sector has today become a rich medium that Palestinians use to convey their diverse experiences and outlooks. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to speak of an audio-visual industry as such. Like their colleagues in other Arab countries, directors and producers continue to face considerable difficulties not only in securing funding or finding qualified technicians, but also in guaranteeing distribution for their work. For Palestinian technicians, training and work opportunities are also rare. Moreover, despite the growth of distribution channels open to them in Europe (and to a lesser extent in the US), Palestinian films continue to face great difficulty finding the appropriate co-production and distribution channels.
If I want to make a film in Palestine, what resources will I find there? the stories, for sure; and the enormous wealth of human experiences that are deeply and universally moving, interesting and often funny. But no qualified technicians and actors, not to mention directors and producers; no cinemas, no reliable equipment rental companies, no significant public or private finance. Moreover, virtually all contemporary films seen internationally were made with foreign finance, foreign crews, sometimes even foreign points-of-view! Some have been made with Israeli finance and crews. So if the primary concern of artists is to be in full control of their means and tools of expression, it is essential to create the know-how and the means of production that can allow for this autonomy.
How to address this situation? The answer, we feel, lies in education, training and culture. The transfer of technology is inadequate on its own. Anyone lacking in self-confidence after centuries of colonial humiliation may be trained to operate a foreign-made machine, but how is s/he to believe that s/he can appropriate it to the point of making it her or his own?
It was with these challenges in mind that we launched the Palestinian Audio-visual Project in 2004, a three and a half year, €616,000 project co-funded by the A.M. Qattan Foundation and the EU. The project has three areas of intervention:
- Capacity-building through a national Training Programme;
- A Schools Film Education Programme, aimed at school students;
- Publication and distribution of audio-visual works with Palestinian themes.
Achievments to date include:
- First ever national industry survey conducted;
- 29 Students trained in the foundations of filmmaking (Part 1);
- 19 Students received further training in different audio-visual disciplines (Part 2);
- 17 screenwriters submitted entries to screenwriting competition; 9 finalists attended two writing workshops (Part 3);
- Four short films produced by crews of students and volunteers in quasi-professional conditions;
- 46 ciné-clubs established in Palestinian schools, including inside Israel;
- Seven workshops held with teachers on the use of films in the classroom;
- Over 2,100 copies of 47 classic films distributed to schools;
- Seven classic films licensed, subtitled and distributed to schools;
- 30 films with a Palestinian theme granted a publishing or distribution grant;
- Establishment of Network of Arab ciné-clubs – SHABAKA - in four different countries;
- 34 members become members of SHABAKA;
- A fully-operational bi-lingual website, including database of technicians, services and films and on-line film discussion forum.