Rona Sela, Looted and Hidden: Palestinian Archives in Israel (2017)





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Published on May 29, 2018

Looted and Hidden - Palestinian Archives in Israel, Rona Sela (Director), 2017

نهب وإخفاء - الأرشيفات الفلسطينيّة في إسرائيل

Documentary film (46 minutes)
Director: Rona Sela

Film Pre-Premiere: Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 27 Shaul Hamelech Blvd., Tel Aviv
July 3rd, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
A Q&A with director Rona Sela and with Mr. Sabri Jiryis, former director of Palestine Research Center will follow the screening

The film Looted and Hidden deals with Palestinian archives that were looted or seized by Israel or Jewish forces during the 20th century and are controlled and buried in Israeli military archives. Based on a lengthy struggle to get access to classified materials, archival footage that were considered lost and interviews with key figures active in the archives and with soldiers that seized Palestinian archives, the film focuses on the treasures Israel looted in Beirut in the 1980s. The film unravels the fate of Palestinian archives, especially film and visual archives, that documented the Palestinian Revolution from late 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s. It raises questions about archival institutions in colonial countries and zones of conflict, and points to the need to dig into the hidden in order to reveal what has been erased or rewritten.

Akin to a detective novel, four characters are involved in a plot to unravel the fate of the Palestinian film archives that were looted throughout the 20th century. However, unlike a detective novel, all the characters are real, and the narrators lead the plot through letters and monologues.

The film Looted and Hidden focuses on a number of groundbreaking institutions that were plundered y Israel in Beirut in 1982: The Palestine Research Center, the Palestinian Cinema Institution (PCI) and the Cultural Arts Center (CAS) of the PLO. These bodies were among the first to document Palestinian existence and to preserve, research and chart the visual and written Palestinian history from the late 1960s onward. Looted and Hidden, the first film devoted to the subject, follows pioneering, bold, and idealistic creators and directors and the archives they built, focusing mainly on the cinematic enterprise created by the CAS and PCI. Tracing their pillaging, administration and control by Israel - looting, censorship, denial of access, and erasure - the film raises questions about archival institutions in areas of conflict and points, as in detective work, to the need to dig into the invisible and hidden in order to reveal what has been erased or rewritten.

Looted and Hidden is based entirely on archival materials, long-term research and in-depth interviews with key figures who have been linked to the fate of the archives, including Khadijeh Habashneh, director and manager of the PCI archive and cinematheque, and Sabri Jiryis, director of the Palestinian Research Center. The film also follows the work of Ismail Shammout and Tamam Al-Akhal, two important post-Nakba Palestinian painters who founded the PLO’s CAS, as well as singer Zainab Shathat. Characters moving on an axis of time and place: Amman - Beirut - Tel Aviv- Fassuta.

The film includes excerpts from the 1970s film The Urgent Call (directed by Ismail Shammott, music composed and performed by Zeinab Sha'ath) that, like many other Palestinian archival materials, was considered lost until now.

The film is in English

Main Credits:
Director: Rona Sela
Script: Rona Sela
Main Editors: Ran Slavin, Lev Goltser
Additional Editors: Thalia Hoffman, Iris Refaeli
Original Music: Ran Slavin
Sound Mix: Itzik Cohen – Jungle Studio, Yuri Primenko

Participants: Khadijeh Habashneh, Sabri Jiryis, Former IDF Soldier, Rona Sela
Narration: Sheikha Helawy, Shadi Khalilian, Ran Slavin, Dalia Tsahor
Graphic Design: Yanek Iontef
Translation: Ilona Merber
Special Thanks: Khadijeh Habashneh, Sabri Jiryis, Kais Al-Zubaidi, Tamam Al-Akhal, Yazid Shammout, Bashar Shammout, Bilal Shammout, Scandar Copti, Safi Hefez, Uzi Raphaeli, Dalia Tsahor, Esti Tsal, Shlomo Arad, Michelle Hamers, Shirly Reuveni, Sharon Hefez, Chen Misgav, Anat Even, Tzachi Ostrovsky

The film was made possible through the generous support of Sally Stein in memory of Allan Sekula, and additional foundations

© Rona Sela, 2017


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