Following a visit with my football team to the West Bank in 2007, I was struck by the contrast between the perceptions I had formed of Palestine through watching the news, and the actual lived experience of being there. The news had left me with an impression of a place almost unliveable and amongst the coverage of violence I had no sense of the real people who lived there. It was a place of villains and victims. Using film, I was keen to open up a new space for dialogue on Palestine, Palestinian culture, film and art. My ambition was not to foreground suffering, not to foreground the occupation, but to generate a wide-ranging curatorial programme in which each film could also be taken on its artistic and creative merits.
The festival launched in December 2011. Hosted primarily at the Watershed it has attracted an average of 500 members of the public a year. Throughout this time I developed relationships with key artists, directors and patrons including Ken Loach, Bidisha and Annemarie Jacir, secured external funding and buy-in from key organisations across the city of Bristol. As director I have been responsible for all elements of the festival from branding, PR, film selection, partnerships, fundraising and evaluation. Highlights include:
- Receiving extensive media coverage, including several interviews on BBC Bristol and inclusion in the Guardian Guide;
- 98%  of the audience rated the event good overall;
- 81%  said that the event made them more interested in the Palestine/Israel conflict
- 97%  said they would continue to discuss Palestine after the event.
Highlights from previous programmes can be found here. A selection of audience feedback is copied below:
“I was relieved to meet people challenging the stereotypes and using new and unique ways of advocating for Palestine”
“A great opportunity to engage with events so far away and to witness personal stories”.
“It’s a brilliant way to engage audiences/people in important issues & create dialogue around challenging subjects”.
(c) Dave Bain, Festival illustration 2014
(c) Habibi (2011), directed by Susan Youssef
(c) Apples of the Golan (2012) directed by Keith Walsh and Jill Beardsworth