Activist Film Festivals

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Bristol Palestine Film Festival: engaging the inactive, the aroused and the aware

The Israel and Palestine conflict is arguably one of the most protracted, well known and yet perhaps least widely understood conflicts of the modern era. One does not need to be an expert in the conflict to know that there is something deeply wrong with the current situation. From a purely humanitarian perspective life in Occupied Palestine is increasingly unbearable. Gaza is home to 1.7 million people and is under an almost constant blockade by land and sea. The unemployment is currently amongst the highest in the world and rose to 44.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2014, up from 27.9 per cent in the same quarter of 2013. There is severe shortage of building materials, food, fuel and health supplies to a region that is now also amongst the most densely populated in world.

I was first drawn to Palestinian Cinema following a trip to the region in 2007, and I later established the Bristol Palestine Film Festival in 2011. This chapter recounts some of my experiences, as someone with no  prior experience of the film industry or managing film festivals, working within an activist community, to curate a curate a film programme which portrays the complexities of life in Palestine as a means to develop a deeper and more authentic connection between audiences and the political subject. Drawing on evaluative data collected over three years, I explore the impact of the films on the public, and access the effectiveness of the festival in drawing new audiences into a conversation about Palestine and Palestinian culture. The chapter published by Intellect in Activist Film Festivals: Towards a Political Subject unpacks the dogma that in revealing human suffering, people will be inspired to take responsibility for the suffering they witness on screen. I draw on research on audience segmentation to better understand who attended to the festival and the different responses that arose in relation to the screenings, an ultimately question the extent to which the festival served the needs of the Palestinian community or those of an already privileged Western audience.


Image: (c) Nic Kane


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