By Moriel Rothman-Zecher
What does life under occupation look like for a teenage Palestinian?
A new, powerful short film by filmmaker and activist Yuval Orr attempts to show exactly that, by following 15-year-old Awni Abu Shamsiya as he attempts to maintain some shred of normalcy in his hometown of Hebron.
Hebron, where the occupation is in many ways manifested in its rawest form, is the only Palestinian city inside which there is an Israeli settlement. It is a junction of direct and daily conflict between Palestinian civilians, Israeli soldiers and Jewish-Israeli settlers. It is a city where streets are segregated between Jews and Palestinians,and one of the places where freedom of movement is most restricted. It is the site of some of the worst civilian-led massacres, on both sides, since the beginning of Jewish-Arab conflict. No single work can summarize this city and its machinations, in nine minutes or nine days, but Yuval’s film, in zooming in on one day in Awni Abu Shamsiya’s life, gets as close as anything I’ve seen recently.
Maybe it’s the throat-clench of absurdity or the dull-throb of heartbreak, but “Khalil Helwa” (Hebron is Beautiful) is one of the most powerful films about life under occupation in Hebron that I’ve seen in years. The film leaves room for the viewer to come to her own conclusions, while maintaining a clear, humane and empathetic view of the gallingly unfair situation.
But forget what I have to say. The work speaks for itself, whether you’ve been to Hebron 50 times or only know the vaguest contours of its story.
Watch the full nine-minute film: