The Palestinian Mobile Cinema is one of the primary initiatives of the PSCAA, and was established in February 2008 to provide a regular, accessible opportunity for Palestinians in the West Bank to watch movies. The project transports a mobile screen and projector into communities that have no access to cinemas.
Before the first Intifada almost every major city in the West Bank had at least one cinema accessible to the people living in and around the city. In fact, in the 1970s and 1980s, Palestinians used to avidly attend and enjoy the cinema. Cinema, like other cultural activities, helped ease tensions and inject enjoyment in a very tense environment. However, due to the Israeli occupation and the social restrictions placed upon Palestinians, most of these cinemas went out of business. Nowadays, in the West Bank there are only two movie theaters, one in Ramallah and the other in Jenin. Long distances, coupled with Israeli-imposed restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank, undermine the ability of Palestinians to enjoy watching a movie at the cinema, among other things. Bearing in mind how expensive and difficult it is to go to the cinema, movie-going falls low among families’ priorities, and the custom of going to the cinema is virtually dying away. It is fair to say that most of the children below the age of 13, have never been to a cinema in their lives.
The Palestinian Mobile Cinema (PMC) project was established to address the situation of cultural decline and to give everybody in Palestine, especially the most disadvantaged and remote sectors of Palestinian society, the chance to enjoy Palestinian and international movies. Given decades of military
occupation, lack of rule of law, increasing vulnerability to violence, poverty, limited access to quality basic services, and general hopelessness, cultural expression and appreciation plays a critical role in maintaining the psycho-social health and positive intercommunal relationships among social groups. The Palestinian Mobile Cinema’s aim is to re-institute the practice of watching movies, in order that the cinema will be perceived again as a basic cultural need for the youth and for Palestinian society as a whole. Through our activities we use film to promote and strengthen the national identity of the communities we visit, and also to foster both cultural and social diversity. Furthermore, the PMC hopes to be seen as a non-violent example of resistance in the face of the problems caused by the occupation, and hopes to inspire the use of cultural forms to empower communities throughout Palestine.
Although there are many organisations functioning in the West Bank to aid in the physical needs of Palestinians living in remote and impoverished situations, there are very few that exist to meet the prevelant need for cultural provisions. Many may ask why we believe a film culture is so important to people living in these conditions, but the truth is that cinema is important to any demographic of people, living under any circumstances. Here are a few reasons why:
- As a form of entertainment films can provide a welcome escape from the struggles of daily life
- Cinema can transcend illiteracy and is therefore an easily digestible form of education and information
- For those living in physically and culturally isolated conditions cinema can act as a great resource to communicate new ideas and human experiences from other cultures
- Cinema is an important tool of communication, dialogue and self representation; ideas that are particularly important to the Palestinian struggle
- Cinema is a way to preserve the collective memory of a people, and to reaffirm a national identity
- Cinema can encourage community participation and social inclusion, and is a way to reopen and address issues that might be difficult to broach within more closed rural societies, such as drugs, women’s rights, and violence.
Since 2008 the PMC team has been travelling the West Bank screening films in villages and refugee camps that have no access to cinema, and has shown films in 200 villages to over 20,000 people. From the very beginning community members from the areas visited have been involved in the preparation and implementation of the screenings, and have taken responsibility for various important roles including researching, programming, promotion and outreach, equipment set-up and the hosting of post-screening discussions. However, in the future we plan to increase this sense of user-ownership by establishing sustainable cinema clubs in each of the communities we visit, enabling the communities to run film screenings and host post-screening discussions themselves. To facilitate this, however, we are in great need of more funding, so please contact us if you are able to contribute financial help to the project.
Alongside the mobile cinema screenings and cinema clubs we also have a plan in place to facilitate filmmaking workshops for the young filmmakers of Palestine, offering them access to professional filmmaking skills and advice from professional filmmakers. The students of the workshops will have the opportunity to take a short film right through from its inception to production and exhibition. By equipping the next generation of Palestinian filmmakers with skills and opportunity, and by helping them to gain recognition of their work, both through our own mobile cinema and cinema club networks, and internationally, we hope to sew the seeds once more of a sustainable film industry for Palestine.