Muhammad Bakri's Film "1948"
and a Meeting with the Director

Friday, May 3

More than fifty years after the "Nakba", the expression in Arabic for the catastrophic outcome of the 1948 war for the Palestinians, two generations of refugees still live its consequences: the refugees of 1948 and the refugees of 1967. The Nakba still reverberates in the minds of these people and in the minds of all Palestinians wherever they are.

About seventy people from NSWAS, from the surrounding area and from Jerusalem, gathered to see the film “1948”. This film is not shown in any regular cinema and the Israeli television has also refused to show it. Therefore it was a special opportunity for us.

About the film:

Director: Mohammad Bakri
Camera: Nedal Hassan
Editor: Eleen Hana - Zananiri
Sound: Mark George Mine
Songs preformed: Yaffa Mohammad Bakri
Palestine-Israel | 1998 | Documentary | 54 min | Color | Beta

The film “1948” is a record of memories of a group of elderly Arabs. The director, Mohammad Bakri, employed poems by the Palestinian resistance poet, Mahmoud Darwish, sung by Bakri's teenage daughter, Yafa.

In their own words, the Palestinians interviewed, describe the moments when they became refugees and lost everything: their houses, their land, their towns or villages, and their dignity. They described the brutality in which they were deported, or the fear of massacre that made them and their families flee for their lives. It is sad to hear these testimonies and see their faces. They speak from their heart, without blame or even protest.

The beautiful music was created and performed by “Sabrine” – a Palestinian music group - to the words of poems by Mahmoud Darwish. The sensitive voice of Bakri’s daughter and the photogenic landscape in the background, gave a deep sense of beauty to the harsh stories.

The discussion that followed the film was intense. The fact that the film was shown just a few days after the “defensive shield” operation by the IDF, and the massive destruction in the Jenin refugee camp, added to its intensity. Muhammed Bakri himself came to the screening following a visit he had made to Jenin and with the hard impressions of what he saw there.

The two-hour-discussion, facilitated by Mohammed Bakri himself, gave the audience an opportunity to share their feelings and thoughts.

Some of the Palestinian participants described their pain at seeing the film and listening to the stories told in it. Some said the last operation of the Israeli army, especially the operation in the Jenin refugee camp, brought back the memories of 1948.

A question was raised whether anything had changed in the attitude of the Israeli authorities towards the Palestinians since 1948. Mouhammed Bakri said that it took him many years to build and restore his national identity. It then took some more years for him to understand that he is not wanted here as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and the events of October 2000 proved that.

”For many years” says Bakri, “we tried to build trust between us and the Jews, so that they understand that we don’t want to destroy them. We even made space in our hearts to understand the suffering of the Jewish people. I personally was deeply influenced by impressions of the Jewish holocaust. Today I feel powerless, I cannot contain the Jewish pain anymore, I am so tired of you (to the Jews). We tried for so many years to attain your understanding. We believed that slowly we would gain more trust.”

One of NSWAS members said that in these days he wonders whether there is a chance for the two people to live together side by side or whether everything is lost.

Bakri's response was that he is optimistic because he believes that human beings are basically good. However, in a situation such as this, the responsibility lies in the hands of the more powerful and strong.

There was discussion around whether the film is more suitable for a Palestinian audience or for a Jewish Israeli audience. Bakri said that for him it is more important to convey the story to the Jews and to share for once the pain of his people, after he was asked for so many years to do the same for the Jews. “I felt that it is an obligation for me, as a human being and a Palestinian, to explain what happened from our point of view.” Later he realized that this expectation was naïve. The film was not shown in many places. Perhaps the Jewish Israelis are not ready to hear the pain of the Palestinians, not yet.

Some of the Jewish participants shared their feelings as well. One participant said that we have to strengthen the peace camp and bring back sanity to this area. We also need to restore the trust between our two people. Another Jewish participant said that she is not optimistic and that she doesn’t know what the Jewish peace camp can do about the situation.

Mohammed Bakri concluded: “ As an artist I cannot be a pessimist. Pessimism destroys love, and I have a love for life, as do so many others amongst us. What you can do is to pass on this message to your people”.