In addition to Wedding in Galilee (1987) and Tale of the Three Jewels (1995), Avila is making two more films by the Palestinian-Belgian filmmaker Michel Khleifi, Fertile Memory (1981) and Ma’loul Celebrates Its Destruction (1985), available to stream online.
Lyrically blending both documentary and narrative elements in Al Dhakira al Khasba [Fertile Memory] (1981), the first feature film to be shot in the controversial Palestinian West Bank, Khleifi skilfully and lovingly crafts a portrait of two Palestinian women whose individual struggles both define and transcend the politics that have torn apart their homes and their lives.
In Ma’loul tahtafilu bi damariha [Ma’loul Celebrates Its Destruction] (1985), Khleifi documents the original inhabitants of Ma'aloul, who are allowed only once a year to return to their Israeli-occupied village. Khleifi shows how the history of this place lives on in the present: in the memories of the old generations and in the imagination of their children.
Both films have been restored by CINEMATEK, the Royal Belgian Film Archive, and are available to stream in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg with French and English subtitles.
Available Texts on Sabzian
In 2021, Sabzian and Courtisane also presented Fertile Memory on the occasion of Sabzian’s seventh Milestones screening. Below you will find an overview of the texts by and on Khleifi that are available on Sabzian.
‘Interview with Michel Khleifi on Fertile Memory’ (1981) by Catherine Arnaud and Mouloud Mimoun.
“[Fertile Memory] is the result of several years of work. I made several reports in the occupied territories, but I also have to say that the film was beyond me. The Palestinian question is basically an issue of oppression: an oppression that dominates the world. I said to myself that I would be able to give the Palestinian question a new dimension by talking about the most oppressed. I thought that women would help bring out all the contradictions.”
‘Excerpts from a conversation on Fertile Memory’ (1982) by Jacqueline Aubenas, Michel Khleifi, Serge Meurant and Johan van der Keuken.
“Yes, from a filmmaker’s point of view, we wanted to look for images other than those brought back by television crews every time there’s a political event in the occupied territories (manifestations, strikes, riots, etc.). We actually believe that these images make us forget the essence: the sense of the struggle of these people. The informative television images are images of ‘effects’, and we are looking for images of ‘causes’.”
‘Interiors’ (1986) by Edward W. Said.
“It is Khleifi’s achievement to have embodied certain aspects of Palestinian women’s lives in film. He is careful to let the strengths of Farah and Sahar emerge slowly, even if at a pace that risks losing the film the larger audience it deserves. He deliberately disappoints the expectations engendered in us by the commercial film (plot, suspense, drama), in favor of a representational idiom more innovative and – because of its congruence with its anomalous and eccentric material – more ”
‘Fertile Memory. A Budding Filmmaker Generates a Past With a Future’ (1981) by Miloud Mimoun.
“The source that irrigates Fertile Memory springs from two poles that constitute the foundations and permanence of the Palestinian soul: usurped land and women. Few films show daily life in the physical and temporal reality (32 years for Mrs Farah Hatoum) of the Israeli occupation. And if these films exist, their lack of credibility is such that at best, we make do with imagining the thoughts behind the gestures and gazes – the deepest dimension of which only the prism of culture will render.”
‘From Reality to Fiction – From Poverty to Expression’ (1997) by Michel Khleifi.
“I would like to define the intricate relationship between my cinematographic language and the prevalent political language. The prevalent political language aims at determining a harmony of concrete interests. It is a uniform language that emphasizes the difference between what is similar and what is different within a very precise geographical and economical area. On the other hand, my cultural action, and not cultural language, aims at liberating spaces where everyone can be moved, can rediscover the real nature of things, marvel at the world, think about it and immerse oneself in the world of childhood. Finally, politics excludes the imaginary, unless it can be used for ideological or partisan ends. But my films’ cultural world is made up of both reality and the imagination, both of which are vital to the creation of my films. It is like a child’s quest for identity: he or she needs these two levels – reality and dream – to approach life in a balanced and non-schizophrenic way.”
All texts are also available in French.