“Masarat”: Palestinian women’s tales in four films

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12/21/2009


Palestinian creativity was demonstrated through four contemporary creations produced by women film-makers. Women artists were given the stage to express their identity, struggle and fears.

Palestinian creativity was demonstrated through four contemporary creations produced by women film-makers. Women artists were given the stage to express their identity, struggle and fears.


Badiaa Zaydan
- Ramallah, Eurojar

Four films produced by four prominent Palestinian women film-makers constitute the core of the ambitious EU funded media project MASARAT (meaning itineraries in Arabic), implemented by Shashat, a Palestinian cinema NGO based in Ramallah. The films were screened in most of the Palestinian provinces in the West Bank and Gaza, during the months of October and November 2009, in collaboration with a number of universities, cultural and women associations.

The star event was on October 15, in Ramallah Cultural Palace, in the presence of EU representative in the Palestinian territories, Christian Burger. Burger stresses on the importance of Masarat as a regional project that aims at promoting a positive and different image of Palestinian women in the region. He also highlights that the four films, produced by Shashat, address the complexity of life in the Palestinian society, and maybe in the Arab society as a whole. Burger points at the importance of the subjects treated in the films, as well as the artistic creation stamped in them. The thriving films give hope for Palestinian women and for Palestinians in general, in a better future in Palestine, adds Burger who praised the efforts of film-makers and of producer Dr. Alia Arasoughly, media development professional and director of Shashat.

Arasoughly stressed on the importance of the European Union support to Palestinian culture. She said: “International support, including European support, generally targets infrastructure, vital issues in society, whereas culture is generally relegated to the bottom of the agenda… So, such EU support is of great importance, especially to Palestinian culture”. She goes on to say that “120,000 Euros might not be enough to produce four films and screen them in various Palestinian provinces and on local TV channels, however, the challenge was to present Shashat as an adept organization, capable of performing artful works. We were involved with other organizations in a three-stage regional support project, and we were able, eventually, of getting the fund, despite the fact that our organization is the smallest compared to other organizations involved in the proposals.”

Arasoughly explains that the European support to Masarat project will cover one season; yet, several other organizations were interested in the project and offered their support for the coming years.

Information officer at the EU bureau in the Palestinian territories, Alex Dimouni noted in a communiqué distributed by Shashat that “the European Union meant through Masarat project to collaborate with local media organization in the Middle East to promote a positive image of the role of women in those societies, usually in the shade due to other social burdens and conflicts that come to the surface.”.

The spotlight
The four new reeling out films of Masarat project were characterized by the diversity of their topics, which mainly focus on the role of Palestinian women in the society. The films address the complexity of women’s life in Palestine and highlight the tremendous oppression that they live; an oppression which trespass the border line of what is normally accepted. The film of Ghada Terawi, Golden Pomegranate Seeds, relates the story of a folk-tale girl who remained silent in the face of oppression and substantial hardships, and a real woman who decided to speak out after years of silently and patiently bearing difficulties, such as incest. Terawi says:”What makes this experience unique is the collaboration that took place among the four producers, who worked as a group to produce the best work of art, without any outside interference”.



Sawsan Qaoud, in her film Far from Loneliness, tells how earth is the companion and confidant of Palestinian farming women, who work tough from pre-dawn in the fields to the vegetable markets. Qaoud notes:”We produced our films without any interference, and team work is the secret of Masarat success”. About her film, she said:”We see them every day in the fields and in the markets selling farm produce… We look at them like any passenger, but we never think of them as women, we never ask ourselves whether they like this job or not… whether they are tired or not, and what being on the streets selling their products means to them.”



Samia, Mahasen Nasser-Eldin’s film, relates the story of a feisty, active and committed woman who struggles to remain in Jerusalem and promote girl’s education. This woman defies Judaization by struggling to keep Palestinian spirit in Jerusalem and defending a housing project for Palestinian families; a project finally ratified by the occupation forces after decades of non-stop clashes. Nasser-Eldin describes Samia as “a committed person, who defies not only occupation, but also the patriarchal society. She also gives hope to the generations to come”. Nasser-Eldine praises Masarat project, which gave her the opportunity to excel, along with three other Palestinian film-makers, in producing diversified films in a comfortable atmosphere, without major obstacles.



Dima Abu Ghoush’s First Love reflects the experience of the first love among adolescent girls, with all its dreams and illusions. In the film, five girls living in Palestinian cities, aged between 19 and 22, speak out of their first loves, which either remained a great love in their real life or a memory in their hearts. Abu Ghoush says: “I have chosen a social and humanitarian topic rather than a political one, as is generally the case in Palestine… I think that it is very important to focus on humanitarian issues through our art work, especially that the whole world got used to the images of struggles and conflicts on our territories.”

Broad screening
The screenings of Masarat films was not limited to the one in Ramallah Cultural Palace, or to those in universities and cultural and artistic associations in the West Bank and Gaza. Several local TV stations broadcasted the four films, followed by discussions. Farah TV in Jenin was among the TV stations that screened the films; Farha Abu Al-Haijaa, the administrative director of the TV, explains that a huge load of telephone calls reached the station during the discussion session that followed the screening of the films. All calls stressed on the importance of the topics discussed in the films, and described them as realistic. She goes on to say that Masarat project paved the way to local TV stations to broadcast films treating sensitive and complex matters in the Palestinian society, usually ignored or neglected.

Head of Gama TV in Nablus, Abir Kilani stresses that most of the reactions on the films were positive. She considers that the screening of those films, mainly Golden Pomegranate Seeds and First Love, gave the opportunity to the public to discuss topics that were usually banned in the media. Very few criticized the broadcasting of films that deal with sensitive social issues on local TV stations.

N.B: Text translated from Arabic by Eurojar team






Your reactions
Jihad Merhi, Lebanon | 04-03-2010, 18.32h

Palestinian women fiercely participate in the developing struggle for nationalism: women in Palestine have a word in politics, form committees and organizations for social work, scream against oppression, participate in the Intifada, and throw stones on aggressors while holding their babies in their arms… sleepless women in Palestine also can speak out in art and film-making… Women’s voices are making up history in this Arab country, and in the whole region… Many stories of the immense courage of individual women in Palestine are still to come as long as oppression and aggressions persist…