There is no one single authoritative directory of Palestinian filmmakers. There are numerous compilations created by various cultural activists who volunteered to publish and update such lists.
The experiences of exile and ethnic cleansing have scattered Palestinian filmmakers allover the globe, making the act of tracking them and their films a difficult challenge. But thanks to the internet, this task has become simpler.
But just as technology helped locate Palestinian filmmakers, it also conspired to complicate the challenge of tracking them. Before the digital filmmaking revolution, the task of counting Palestinian filmmakers was an easier one. Back in the 80s there were about a dozen filmmakers who established their names. This is no longer the case.
Soon as inexpensive digital filmmaking made its debut in the Arab World, many talented Palestinian storytellers were ready to leverage the powerful medium of cinema to tell their stories. Before, filmmaking was relegated to the wealthy few or those who had access to Western or government sources of funding, which oftentimes came with a stigma that took the In out of Independence. But it was about the only way to make Palestinian films.
Inexpensive digital filmmaking changed the landscape of Palestinian cinema forever. New Palestinian names rose to prominence. The list of filmmakers who call themselves Palestinians grew exponentially over the last decade or so. It seems many directory administrators were unable to keep up with the burgeoning population of Palestinian filmmakers. So some resorted to only tracking “celebrity” filmmakers, others went after “big budget” films, another group listed only filmmakers they liked.
Additionally, our directory of Palestinian filmmakers was assembled in response to the recent phenomena of politicizing Palestinian cultural references. This resulted in directories and references that excluded or included Palestinian artists based on their political affiliations or associations.
In our effort to compile a more comprehensive list of Palestinian filmmakers, we have consulted with a number of Palestinian cultural activists, researched festival websites, and gathered data from other existing lists.
Now comes the tricky part. Who is a Palestinian filmmaker?
We needed to arrive at a definition that provided some clarity to the task. To us, a Palestinian filmmaker is a filmmaker with his or her origins in historic Palestine and who was involved in the production of a film about the Palestinian Israeli conflict be it a short or a feature film, fiction or non-fiction, experimental or classic. But a film which has received reasonable attention either in Palestinian, Arab, or international film festivals. In rare situations, non-Palestinian Arab filmmakers are categorized as Palestinian filmmakers if they have dedicated a significant effort to the making of Palestinian films.
Admittedly, the rise of Arab satellite TV and the blurring of lines between the TV documentary and the so-called documentary film added a significant number of Palestinian filmmakers to the directory. It’s fair to expect some directories to limit their tracking to Palestinian filmmakers who make fiction films, others non-fiction.
For phase II, we will add more information to the names such as filmography and basic biographical information as well as contact information, if the filmmaker so chooses.
Since the web is an interactive medium, we encourage readers to notify us of missing names or if they see a name that’s not of a Palestinian filmmaker.
We don’t claim this list is complete, but we hope it’s fairly comprehensive and can serve as an additional reference for researchers and film festivals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Abed Al-Kateb is a Palestinian-American cultural activist specializing in Palestinian cinema history.