Some movies exalt the inane, whilst others help us to transcend looking back in anger and forward in fear, but around in awareness.
Reel Palestine, an annual film festival screening independent and alternative Palestinian films in the UAE is definitely in the latter category. Increasingly anticipated every year by the community, this not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization was founded by Dana Sadek, Nadia Rouchdy and Noora Husseini. Today the team includes Ali Aboteen, Bahaa Khayaali, Amira Shaheen and Tarik Qahawish.
Curious to know more , I recently spoke to Dana Sadek, Co-founder of Reel Palestine about their annual film festival, running on January 18th – 27th 2018 in the UAE.
Keeping it Reel
Born in 1985 in the US, Dana grew up in Dubai and has never returned to her ancestral village of Dayr al Qassi in Palestine. Like many Palestinian living in the diaspora, she struggled to connect with her roots.
Growing up in the UAE, I grappled to forge a bond with my Palestinian roots. My mother is Lebanese, and my father Palestinian, born in Lebanon and neither of them have been to Palestine. I hope to visit one day soon.
In 2014, Dana was amongst the millions of horrified spectators who watched the tragic war in Gaza unfolding on TV and felt frustrated. Her helplessness compelled her to dive in, contributing to causes that would impact people besides donating to charities she believed in. At that time Dana was working in film programming and realized what an important tool film is. Inspired by the impact it had on her and on the community, she realized the potential to develop a similar cultural event for Palestinians.
I thought how incredible it would be to put together a festival that unveiled art whilst supporting Palestinian self awareness and empowerment. After all, Film is an effective tool that has the ability to teach and touch people’s hearts in a unique way.
Dana wanted to create a platform that would educate Palestinians in the diaspora about their homeland and also bring awareness to the situation they face.
She connected with long-time friend Nadia Rouchdy for advice and later Noora Husseini, together they created Reel Palestine.
We are showing real life. It was important to us to share the stories of Palestine and make a lasting impact. Film has a way of percolating deeply into everyone’s consciousness and this can foster awareness and ultimately, transformation.
Films that holler use this art form as a weapon. Sensitivity is the healing and responsiveness the result.
Their first launch was a pop-up festival in January 2015 to showcase Palestinian culture and persistence through film, bringing awareness to viewers of the beautiful, difficult, emotional and inspirational moments that occur under occupation.
Festival of Festivals
This year marks Reel Palestine’s 5th annual festival and promises to be magnificent with an exciting line up of films, as well as an enticing Palestinian artisan market. Wael Kabbani, director of “What Walaa Wants” will also attend the screening of his movie followed by a Q&A.
We hope to continue the festival every year and foster a home for it. Having support from filmmakers and distributers is vital for our platform. We are grateful to our sponsors like Nai and Camaly Clinic, that help make this festival thrive with each passing year.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Tanya knew that Palestine was her symbolic homeland. Always curious about her identity and connecting with her roots, she was eager to strengthen her ties to the Levant and traveled the region, desperate to learn more. It wasn’t until her first trip to Palestine that she became spiritually and emotionally connected.
She studied Political Science and Sociology at the University of Toronto. She then moved to the UAE, supporting numerous NGOs related to children’s welfare in the region. When she had her own family, she created the My Olive Roots platform in the hopes that her children and the Arabs diaspora would have a place to connect, learn and preserve their roots. Tanya enjoys discovering humanist stories and exploring the connection of food and art with culture.