Filmmaking from Palestine has a good reputation at festivals all over the world. But Palestine doesn’t have any platform for filmmakers. It’s not just a lack of finances, there’s also a lack of infra structure and industry knowledge.
Few areas are covered as intensely in the media as Palestine, however the lack of resources makes it difficult for Palestinians to tell their own stories. Director of Aarhus Film Workshop, Morten Hartz Kaplers, says: “People from Palestine have a lack of equipment in postproduction, although what they don’t lack are strong stories.
That’s why Hanna Atallah toke the initiative to start Filmlab: Palestine based in Ramallah. In January Hanna visited Denmark with two colleagues to learn more about film workshops, film culture and how to build a film industry. That visit resulted in a collaboration agreement.
Creating a film environment
Filmlab: Palestine is the one behind the festival “Days of Cinema” in Palestine and this was the place where their new film workshop was launched. To begin with they looked for inspiration and guidance in Denmark as the project is still in its developing phase where concrete aspects need to come together. The Ramallah municipality has helped with providing a new building for the location of the Filmlab in the old city and is paying the Filmlab's rent for the next three years, which will have a major impact on the future of the Filmlab.
After visiting Denmark the Filmlab is finalising its strategic plan. The initial phase is to examine how to acquire financial support to run the Filmlab, equipment, employees and lecturers / guidance to establish regional and global partners – including Denmark.
”We are so happy that CKU (cultural and developmental center) gave us this support, so we can keep on working on our strategy in the next three years", says Hannah Atallah and continues:
"We also needed someone with professional expertise to teach us how to start a film workshop and how to build a strong cultural film environment, for the new talents, the children and young people, the local community and for Palestine in general. You can have lots of ideas, however there’s a need for concrete knowledge and know-how to concise all these ideas and make them operational.”
The Filmlab has now received the above desired knowledge from Charlotte Giese who is from the Danish Film Institute and Morten Hartz Kaplers, director of Aarhus Film Workshop. They have been on a research tour and arranged workshops for the professional film industry, for cultural talent and the Ministry of Culture in the west.
Morten Hartz Kaplers says: "It is more important than ever before to have an international network. That network needs to start while the film talents are still at the film workshops. You need to have a network before you become professional".
Charlotte Giese and Morten Hartz Kaplers arranged for the Palestinians to participate in a program in Denmark, which included meetings with The Danish Film School, International Media Support and CPH: DOX.
The pair of them contributed with knowledge and experience on cultural film and talent areas.
Aarhus Film Workshop has given consultancy with the finer details: which equipment is needed in an effective film workshop, how many films can be produced within a year with a certain budget and with a number of employees etc.
As a member of the government’s international culture panel, The Danish Film Institute has had a natural focus on cooperation with partners in the Middle East as well as efforts with children and youth as a target group.
The need for a permanent solution
Atallah stresses that the present lack of facilities in Palestine has created a need for a permanent solution where filmmakers can meet and exchange ideas. She teaches local talents in workshops over a short period, however many skilled film people fall away after a short while. This is why there is a need for a permanent solution, which will offer the opportunity to gather strengths and for the professional expertise, talents and stories to develop in Palestine by Palestinians.
Atallah also mentions the great interest of filmmakers from outside of Palestine to produce films on Palestine, thus making it expedient for a stronger basis for collaboration.
Fatin Farhat, who is the cultural researcher and operator in Ramallah municipality says, that at the moment the university handles all film education, which is on par with other media. In the meantime Ramallah prioritises cultural development, which is why it has been decided to establish a place for the upliftment of the visual arts, a venture, which Farhat for many years has worked towards creating.
Open for international collaborations
Jumana Khoury comes from background in psychology but has for years helped companies and organisations develop strategies as well as different programs of various designs.
She now applies her knowledge to benefit and develop Filmlab: Palestine, however she stresses that the film workshop has to be non-profit and non-commercial.
Jumana Khoury explains that they work within four overall objectives:
“We want to create a space for filmmakers where they can meet and exchange ideas; we will offer access to equipment and capacity building; we want to create a greater volume in Palestinian film production and thus contribute to the basis for a professional industry. Lastly, we want to promote film as an art form to the public and Palestinian society as a whole. Thus we are working to create experiences for the Palestinian film branch and the public through international experience.
Ramallah is a twinning city with Aarhus, as it is also with Paris and Trondheim, as well as initiating other international collaborations.
Agreement with Aarhus Film Workshop
At present a coproduction agreement has been signed between Aarhus Film Workshop and Filmlab: Palestine. This excites the director of Aarhus Film Workshop, Morten Hartz Kaplers:
“It is the first time ever that Denmark has signed an agreement with a Middle Eastern country. Aarhus Film Workshop is inevitably doubling its value – and at no cost.
He goes on to say that Palestinians will thus participate in Danish co-productions, while Aarhus Film Workshop will facilitate its talents to coproduce with Palestinian filmmakers.
Kaplers goes on to say that he expects to see many Danish documentary makers in Palestine, although the collaboration is created for all types of film. The optimism is great with the director of Aarhus Film Workshop: We are strongly convinced that many will get professional distribution of the films, which will be created through the collaboration.