UK's Palestinian film festivals make comeback as Israel’s war on Gaza rages

UK's Palestinian film festivals make comeback as Israel’s war on Gaza rages
Cities such as London, Bristol and Leeds will be relaunching film festivals on Palestine this year, as organisers believe there is a "greater urgency" to amplify Palestinian voices amid the Gaza war
2 min read
16 November, 2023
UK's Palestinian film festivals are set to showcase Palestinian and Jewish voices amid the brutal war on Gaza [Getty]

Palestinian film festivals across the UK are set to return this year amid Israel's indiscriminate war on Gaza, which has killed thousands of people.

Film festivals are set to take place in Leeds, Bristol, and London next month and organisers will help bring context to the Palestinian cause beyond mainstream media narratives.

While the Surrey Palestine Film Festival announced that it would be postponed this year in the wake of Israel's war on Gaza, other festival organisers said that the "heightened interest" in Palestine had led to the need for "calm and respectful spaces".

The Leeds Palestinian Film Festival will be the first in this year's programme consisting of 13 films and other cultural activities such as Palestinian music and embroidery. Festivals in London and Bristol will follow soon after.

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"We certainly felt that the current situation in Israel and Gaza makes the festival even more important, and we have been determined to reach even more people due to the heightened interest in Palestine and Israel," Frances Bernstein, the co-director of Leeds Palestinian Film Festival told The New Arab

"Our theme is 'Hidden Stories', these are stories that need bringing into the light with much greater urgency, as they are rarely touched on by the mainstream media."

The Leeds' festival will showcase both Palestinian and Jewish storytelling, from Canadian director Tim Schwab's Cinema Palestine to Jason Sherman's My Tree.

The organisers said that they have not faced "any significant backlash" over the relaunch of the festival but acknowledged the "emotionally charged atmosphere" caused by the Gaza war. It is hoped the Leeds Palestinian Film Festival will "provide much-needed calm and respectful spaces to discuss the current situation".

"We are particularly pleased that Leeds City Council is one of our funders, and the Lord Mayor will give a launch address this Saturday, many individual councillors also contribute funding and support," Bernstein said. 

"His civic support sends out a strong message in a climate where supporting anything Palestinian is being equated with supporting terrorism or being antisemitic."