Last week, The Freedom Theatre was the centre of the first Cultural Resistance Festival of Palestinian Theatre. From April 4-7, several events were organised to celebrate the theatre’s 12th anniversary as well as marking the death of co-founder Juliano Mer Khamis and the April 2002 invasion of Jenin refugee camp. The festival turned out to be a meeting place for many friends and supporters of The Freedom Theatre including daily theatre performances, by The Freedom Theatre as well as Palestinian theatre from Ramallah and Best Jala. A few highlights of the event below:
Day 1: Opening and sharing stories
The first day of the festival was particularly busy, with international guests arriving from France, Germany, UK, Austria, Italy and USA. Upon arrival, an exhibition of the photography and cartoon workshops was displayed, showcasing the work of our photography students in 2017. After a lunch with the guests, staff and actors, the festival was officially opened by Nabeel Al-Raee, Artistic Director, who commemorated the mournful murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis, exactly 7 years ago on that day.
In the afternoon Ahmed Tobasi’s production And Here I Am was staged to a full house in Jenin camp. His impressive one man show, inspired by his own struggle growing up in Jenin Refugee Camp, received a standing ovation from the local and international audience.
Adnan Naghnaghiye (technical manager) led a tour through the Jenin Refugee Camp for several of the guests and shared stories about how the occupation affects the daily life in the camp. The evening started with the screening of Juliano’s documentary Arna’s Children, giving some of the international guests further insight into Jenin’s and The Freedom Theatres history.
Day 2: Meeting with Friends
Most of the day was reserved for closed meetings with the Friends Associations. Representatives of the French as well as the USA’s Friends of TFT made it to the festival to talk about future plans.
The day ended with a performance, Maramieh by Al-Harah Theatre. The play, based on 6 testimonies of the Nakba in 1948, again caught the attention of the festival’s guests as well as some local audience.
Day 3: Out in the fields
The third day of the festival started early with a walk through the Jenin district, providing a brief history about how the occupation affects the area, which is surrounded by the separation wall and the impact of the occupation on the daily life of the villagers. A traditional Palestinian breakfast was cooked and enjoyed out in the field, overlooking the beauty of northern West bank hills. Back at the theatre, one of TFT’s successful productions was performed by graduates of The Freedom Theatre Acting school. Return to Palestine shows the humorous and heart breaking journey of an American Palestinian returning to his homeland.
Day 4: Future plans
The final day of the festival closed with a gripping visual performance by Ashtar Theatre. Oranges and Stones. The wordless play showed the events surrounding the first Jewish immigration after the Balfour Declaration. The play was the closure of a vibrant festival, which sparked new relations and inspired future plans. As Mustafa Sheta, General Secretary, summarised:
“I see the lasting importance of creating a free space for people, so they can be a critical voice against the occupation and unjust Palestinian policies. As a political theatre, we think this kind of cultural resistance is important. One of our ways to create a space for cultural resistance, is to establish a recurrent festival in the north of the West Bank. This year’s festival has been the first step towards a future international political theatre festival, with theatre companies from different countries in the world.”
On behalf of The Freedom Theatre family, we would like to thank all our friends, supporters and theatres who participated in last week’s festivities – without you, our work would not be possible!
Check our facebook page for more pictures of the festival!