Sarajevo Film Festival 2024

Palestine, Portugal, pluralism

Let me take this time for more examples identity is problematic. Who-you-are and where-you-belong-to are still debated.

As usual, Norway’s Foreign Minister led the Donor Group for Palestine (AHLC) – this time at Oslo City Hall for a couple of hundred participants, such as Palestinians, Israelis, the United States, the EU, Russia, the UN and other key countries. Anniken Huitfeldt began by emphasizing that Norway is working to ensure that Palestine gets its own state – the two-state solution. In the long run, this could mean that the Palestinians realize their own identity independently of Israel. Huitfeldt also emphasized that Norway is a partner for both parties. Afterwards, we asked, in a separate interview, how the government views the fact that Israel recently defined six Palestinian humanitarian organizations as terrorist organizations (or that they support such). Terror – identity is a label that entails both arrests, seizures, and possible closure. Huitfeldt replied: «We have asked Israel to document these very serious allegations and are awaiting a response.» These are humanitarian NGOs with human rights as their goal – that is, they work with universal values, beyond the individual identity. Of the six, for example, Al-Haq and Defense for Children, according to the UN, have submitted documentation on Israeli war crimes to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Huitfeldt has no more information about this when I ask, but points out that «we must open up civil society on the Palestinian side, a space that has shrunk in the last couple of years. […] We may be facing a collapsing society, and that is very, very dangerous.»

Norway has long had an identity as a peacebuilder. For example, Nansen provided the Nansen Pass for 500 stateless refugees.

But in terms of identity, this conflict is complex – as Israel identifies itself as a «Jewish state». When we filmed the Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammed Shtayyed in a conversation with the media afterwards, his conclusion is clear: «The Israeli Prime Minister gave us no three times – not a single yes. They now have more intense settlement programs than Netanyahu, saying no to a Palestinian state and no to meeting President Abbas. They will now face very serious consequences.» Huitfeldt, for his part, indicated in his earlier summary of the meeting that «Israel had outlined a number of concrete measures that their new government is willing to take.»

Asked about reducing the conflict between Israel and Palestine, at least Huitfeldt said that they are doing what they can – according to the Oslo agreement – so that Palestine gets enough money from the present donors. One question I, unfortunately, did not ask was whether the new government will now officially recognize Palestine as an independent state – as Huitfeldt’s former colleague Anna Linde did in Sweden in 2014. And when Jonas Gahr Støre was foreign minister, he was reproduced in the New York Times (18.09.11) with that «Norway is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state». His own comment in print 4 days later with the title Ready for Statehood, at «the main obstacle to the realization of Palestinian statehood is the occupation. The Palestinians are otherwise fully capable of running a state ».

See also the conversation with Thorbjoern Jagland. Yes, is it not time for Palestine to realize an independent identity?

Portugal and the sea

Let me grasp identity in a completely different way, with the nations Portugal and Norway. I was recently invited to the documentary film festival DocLisboa, where I sat on a panel to discuss national identity – via the maritime nations Portugal and Norway. Norway is now assisting with close to NOK 10 million so that Portugal can digitize its films related to the coast and the sea. Like Norway, where 80% of the population lives 10 minutes from the sea, a lot of identities are associated with it. We are good at talking about Norway as a coast, fishing, and fjord – and national tourist destinations. The Portuguese identity will now be strengthened via film, as we saw how the Cinematheque in Lisbon will digitize a full 10 minutes from film reels. An old short film about Norwegian herring fishing was also shown at the festival. We have a lot of stories about sailors, sailing ships, cargo ships, and shipowners…

However, in the debate, I was sceptical of identity building. Via the sea, Portugal got an outlet for its colonial power. Although one can be proud to see Norwegian clipfish (bacalao) in Portugal, I was rather the heretic in the debate panel. I rather emphasized pluralism and reminded the congregation of the cynic Kjell Inge Røkke. He who with bottom-sweeping trawlers destroyed bottom conditions and weakened the fish stock in South America. Many a local fisherman lost his income. Røkke is a westerner who proudly tries to invoke the identity «fisherman» and today invests heavily in farmed salmon – with «endless possibilities,» as he says.

If you look around here in the newspaper, you will find – not by chance – a number of critical remarks about identity.

I rather enjoyed some festival films, such as the retrospective of Italian Cecilia Mangini, where a couple of heretics – the boy who did not fit into the class; or the feature film about Antonio Gramscii in prison. Here, the deviation is rather important, to be able to accept different thinking. For is not the health of the nation or democracy measured by how they treat the minority or minorities? Therefore, it was provocative to see the large French area with hippie-like eco-collectives in the film The Spark – where humans had chosen to live in harmony with nature and each other – to be devastated by Macron’s police forces. As jury members, we gave the film an honourable mention.

For documentaries can – in addition to strengthening personal or national identity – also question and open up for a fairer treatment of the Other, the Stranger, or the Refugee.

Yes, the refugee was also a theme in Lisboa, with Ai Weiwei’s huge exhibition in the port warehouses, including all his documentaries about refugees – including Human Flow. Also the sculpture of a large oil-black inflatable boat with refugees. This world-renowned dissident artist did not find himself in the Chinese totalitarian and today lives in $Berlin. The identity problem for the political refugees he mentions also applies to himself.


If you look around in the newspaper, you will find – not by chance – a number of critical remarks about identity. For example, in the conversation here with Jagland, where he, in a critique of the red-green alternative with SV and Sp – which dampened Arbeiderpartiet’s historical internationalism – expresses that «some of the social democrat in me died.» Or what about former editor-in-chief Arne Ruth, who due to Sweden’s treatment of Julian Assange hereafter chooses to call himself European rather than Swedish. On the other hand, Steffen Moestrup’s essay on family affiliation, having a grandmother who witnesses your life, is an argument the other way around. Dag Herbjørnsrud’s essay also shows how Africa historically contributed to helping advance Europe, but the page was looked down upon. And several books deal with identity, be it political, ethnic, gender, youthful, national, religious, or ecological – or the way you present yourself in the media.

The middle section, ORIENTERING also deals with photography, where, for example, black identity, or the suppression of it, is evident in Zofia Cielatkowska’s article (page 28). The essay on the world of international books, on the major booksellers – in turn, builds on pluralism and a broad understanding.

As the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said about identity, we must not fasten the travel suit with a hard knot. Because with a little reflection, you really see how temporary much of your identity is – and do not hold on to it so tightly, but open yourself up more to others, to different thinking, to the multicultural or a pluralism. Such a French philosopher as Emmanuel Lévinas has pointed out with «the other’s face.»

And as the politician Jagland emphasizes over four sides, war and conflict most often end in nationalism and proliferation of enemy images. Borders and walls create violence, and military action creates revenge and hatred over generations. The stigma of the past as «black» or «Jew,» or today’s populist play on emotions with labels such as «terrorist,» «conspiracy theorist» or «vaccine opponent,» has never helped the world in the future.

It’s time for less insult and emotion, and rather more openness, reason and reconciliation – or as Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo finally said in the trial against him in China: «I have no enemies.»

This article first appeared in Norwegian via Ny Tid

Truls Lie
Truls Liehttp:/
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review.

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