Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ken Loach Comes to Ramallah

In coordination with each other, Yabous Productions and Philistine Films worked hard to get renowned British film maker Ken Loach to Palestine.

Ken Loach is awesome. He refused an OBE long before we were born (1977) citing:
"It's all the things I think are despicable: patronage, deferring to the monarchy and the name of the British Empire, which is a monument of exploitation and conquest."

His movies reflect his socialist views such as homelessness, worker's rights, oppressed citizens, etc. He is a strong supporter of the BDS campaign and has called for the boycott of Israeli cultural institutions. He has boycotted the Melbourne Film Festival as well as the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which lead to the organizers of the latter to return the three hundred pounds grant it received from the Israeli Embassy to fund an Israeli director's visit. Loach saw his actions as morally compatible:
“The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable. With regret, I must urge all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation and stay away.”

Loach, along with long time collaborators producer Rebecca O'Brien and screenwriter Paul Laverty arrived at the Ramallah Cultural Palace after 6pm on Tuesday, owing their delay to their travelling from the Allenby Bridge the same day. After their introductions were briefly made, Haider Eid of PACBI from Gaza welcomed them via pre-recorded message. Anne Marie Jacir of Philistine Films then took to the stage heaping praise on the three stooges and explaining her endeavor to get them to Palestine for the first time ever. The three went on stage and Ken Loach succinctly described their first few hours in the West Bank, and their shock at the first sight of the Apartheid Wall, at its immensity and glaring illegality.

Without further ado, the crowd settled down to watch "The Wind That Shakes The Barley", a film about Irish independence and the subsequent civil fighting in the early 1920's. I love Ireland for its history, which so strongly parallels Palestine's, for its dialect, and for its hot men. Had to get superficial there. Even though Cillian Murphy scares the crap out of me because of his strongly innocent face (curses upon you, Red Eye), I loved his hair. He's a foine actor that's for sure. Anyway, not wanting this to sound like a movie review but more of an account, Damien O'Donovan (Cillian) is a doctor headed to London in 1920, but after witnessing the Black and Tans brutal beating of a railway guard and the train driver, he heads back to join his brother's ad hoc unit of the IRA. They fight against the British, whom they recognize as viewing Ireland only as a tiny dollop in the overall British empire. After 'independence' is gained (a permanent ceasefire between the British forces and the IRA), the Peace Treaty is then put forth, and this had the same effect on the Palestinians when the Oslo Accords were signed. First of all, the people, the citizens, were not included in the decision-making. Their opinion and their assent were completely disregarded. Secondly, the Peace Treaty gave the Republic of Ireland the status of a self-governing dominion that would be part of the British empire. This divided the IRA members. Some, like Teddy (Damien's brother) accepted the treaty as a foreground in which later gains would be accessed through negotiations. Others opposed it on the basis that they fought this long and hard for a completely independent Irish state, and nothing less would do. These people would certainly not swear allegiance to the English king.That's like saying we can have our own Palestinian state but must take the Jewish Loyalty Oath. I watched Liam Neeson's "Michael Collins" a couple of times, so my background information was adequate, and although I could certainly understand Collin's perspective, I was also sympathetic to the anti-Treaty IRA cause. I was forcibly reminded of Arafat's complacent decision, whose motives were purely monetary, to rule a pseudo Palestinian state under the control of the Israeli occupation. What good has come out of that? It's been mentioned before on this blog, but what the Oslo Accords did was to legalize Israel as a state and its occupation. The civil war between the Irish was not unlike that between Hamas and Fateh back in 2006, where even brothers were turned against each other. I'm not going to give away the ending, but it's depressing as hell.

L-R: Laverty, Loach, Barghouti, and O'Brien

After the movie ended, 15 minutes were allotted for questions by the audience and answers by Loach, Laverty, and O'Brien, who were joined by BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti. Loach emphasized the importance of unity, and pointed to the experience of Ireland, where if you are divided, you fail. Women also had a huge role to play in the Irish War of Independence, as they provided support and intelligence, among other things. While Laverty was doing his research for the movie, he came upon a quote from some British officer in 1920: "We will not be able to defeat the Irish. We must get the Irish to defeat the Irish." Who else but the US and Israel are profiting from the schism between Fateh and Hamas? Who was it that trained and financed the Fateh members to use what they learned against their brothers? It's unnerving to see the stark comparison between Palestine and Ireland, proving once again that history does repeat itself. Did you know that Lloyd George and his government, who put forth the Peace Treaty, were the same government that issued and backed the Balfour Declaration?

Imperialism sucks.

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