On What Was, and What Remains: Palestinian Cinema and the Film Archive


Author: Hend Alawadhi, University of Rochester, United States of America
Published: August 2013

Citation: Alawadhi, H. (2013). On What Was, and What Remains: Palestinian Cinema and the Film Archive. IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.1.1.02


Palestinian cinema is intricately tied to the memory of a pre-1948 Palestine and the desire of return; one that must be understood in the context of sixty years of exile and dispersion. It is also concerned with making what has been forcibly made invisible, visible. The individuality of the Palestinian people and their cultural identity, which is frequently marginalised in today’s media, is given a chance to rediscover its voice in films that are fuelled by an archival fever (Derrida & Prenowitz, 1995). Items like keys, title deeds, family photographs, newspaper clippings, school certificates, and marriage licenses are the foundation of Palestinian memory, and hence are a decisive part of Palestinian cinema, alongside landscape and trauma. Although the Palestinians are a dispersed people, and their films originate from different places: the West Bank, Gaza, the Arab world, Europe and the United States, they represent a collective identity, an identity that is primarily based on ancestral memory and one which is facing continual crises that threaten its existence. This paper is about Palestinian cinema and the themes of disaster, displacement and memory. It also focuses on the Palestinian Film Archive that went missing during the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982. The archive is perhaps the ultimate representation of the silenced Palestinian with no permission to narrate (Said, 1984). I take a close look at two short documentaries made about the archive, as well as interviews and personal accounts, deeply rooted in nostalgia, twice removed from the memories of a utopian Palestine.


Palestine, cinema, archive, memory, displacement, film, politics, representation, narrative