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Before Time Erases the Memories of Exile

Courtesy of Cinema Guild and Al Jadid

Courtesy of Cinema Guild and Al Jadid

by Lynne Rogers. The short film, “Still Life” begins with an elderly man aimlessly puttering in his Sidon apartment that has temporarily lost its electricity. With every day of his 83 years showing on his face, the Palestinian Said Ismael Otruk looks through old photos from the “golden days” in Acre before which he left at age 12 to find refuge in Sidon. Although he has had a shop in Sidon for fifty-five years, the old man still aches for his homeland. As Diana Allan’s camera slowly and painfully pans from shots of his face to his old photos, the measured tempo of his memories contrasts with the traffic noises outside his window. His shaking fingers point out the landmarks of Acre as he describes the local personalities, and remembers the fish they used to catch in this nostalgic paradise. Later, they used the fishing boats to transport the fleeing Palestinians to larger boats. He compares the huddled Palestinians to the bundles to fish. Eventually, his family joins the others. The old man has never returned to the border to see the sea of his childhood.

Like the work of Palestinian artist Vera Nassir, this short documentary testifies to an innocent childhood disrupted by the Occupation. However, the gentle Said remembers sharing the bounty of fish with the families of Israeli settlers, and saves his curses for the Arab government who “pushed us out of our homes” with a promise that the families would be able to return in seven days. At a time when the world must cope with growing numbers of refugees, this short film artfully records one voice that echoes for many.

Still Life Directed by Diana Allan Cinema Guild, 25 minutes.

This review will appear in Al Jadid, Vol. 19, No. 69, 2015

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