In an emotionally charged interaction with Ajyal Jurors and later with the media at the Special Edition of the 10th Ajyal Film Festival, Saleh Bakri, an internationally renowned actor from Palestine, shared the tremendous challenges he and fellow artists face while living under occupation.
On his experience of working on ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon’ by Mounia Akl, in Lebanon, Bakri said it was “amazing and enriching.”
He narrated the struggles he had to face to make it happen.“I live in Palestine, and I cannot move freely because am a Palestinian living under occupation. I have to carry a passport that I have not chosen, and I have to be a citizen of a state I didn’t choose,” he said.
Bakri explained this has led to travel restrictions within the Arab world.“It is very hard, if not impossible, for me or my peers to travel to Lebanon and some other Arab states. I had to request a passport from the Palestinian Authority to travel to Lebanon, and immediately upon my return, it was seized by the Israeli authorities.”
Bakri said artists in Palestine are caught between “a hammer and an anvil; we are always considered guilty until proven innocent. This is a very disturbing situation, to live constantly under suspicion.
"We have proven ourselves in cinema, poetry, literature, art and music.Those who refuse to work with us are the losers, just as we lose the opportunity to communicate with our brothers and sisters.”
He said the relentless struggles has made him tired and weary, but he will not let go of his dreams.“It is a long road filled with hardship to have freedom. We live in the nostalgia of our past, and a craving to communicate with the Arab world freely.”
Bakri said he is confident of the future of Arab cinema.“I believe that things are moving forward; the work by our young filmmakers are inspiring. Arab cinema will develop and grow, and we are seeing proof of that. We are making great films that make an imprint globally.
"I hope we will also expand our wings and deliver even more powerful work in theatre, television and web series as well.”
Sharing his dream of playing the historical figure, Al Hallaj, Bakri said “he has a complex personality and represents a grand period in our history. We must honour our historical figures more through our cinema and arts.”
Bakri said the Ajyal Film Festival is a rare platform that gives young people the opportunity to express themselves. He also lauded the work of the Doha Film Institute, saying: “It does a brave job of supporting independent cinema.
"They are in fact the first supporters of independent cinema throughout the Arab world and doing a great job. I have worked in many DFI supported films and seen many featured at global film festivals. DFI is indeed a source of pride for Arab filmmakers,” he added.
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