It’s a bar in Ramallah called Beit Aneesh. Apparently named after an old lady that lived there. A laid back place with posters from the history of the struggle of the Palestinian people. We had just completed the documentary workshop StoryDoc in Ramallah – and Tue Steen Müller, who has helped so many emerging filmmakers from all over the world, suggested anyone who wanted to could joins us for a beer or coffee at 8pm. Few have come. Most have long, unpredictable journeys through the occupied territories where they will undoubtedly be stopped several times.

Khaled Jarrar  has turned up though – just arrived from France where his work as a radical conceptual artist has become celebrated. We’re so pleased to see him – a filmmaker of huge promise as well as an artist. Tue has just seen the rough cut of his first film which is about the wall. He shows us a scene with him with a tiny chisel, chipping off little bits of the wall. Tue suggests he end his new film like this. It’s a futile act of defiance, made funny by its impotence. Khaled is also funny and strong in a way that only gentle people can be. I had seen scenes from his film the year before when we were working with him at the Storydoc workshop in Greece. I remember a mother and daughter who could not see each other due to the wall which now carves right through between the West Bank and Jerusalem, splitting up areas. They were forced to slip photos and letters under it to each other. I remember them touching hands through a gap under the wall. I also remember seeing a boy pushing bread through one of the holes on the wall. What struck me was not the bizarre act itself, but the look on the boy’s face when caught by the camera’s gaze. Maybe I imagined it, but his look seemed to say that he had seen himself from outside for a split second, acknowledging the weirdness which had transformed everyone’s life in this country of zones and codes and divisions and passes and discriminations and humiliations – and the wall. We had seen it earlier that evening.

George Khleifi, a local producer and the organiser of Ramallah.doc, had taken us to see how it lacerated the place in two, cutting through roads to Jerusalem which had been the main roads to see relatives, loved ones and to travel to work. In the dark we deciphered words which had been written across the top by a South African visiting artist: “We are the children of our histories. Yet we may also choose to be struck by the stories of others. Perhaps this ability is what is called morality. We cannot always act upon what we see but we always have the freedom to see and to be moved”?

Khaled Jarrar

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