GAIFF Pro Critics Campus: A Fidai Film

English Daily #2
by Amarsanaa Battulga

Palestinian filmmaker Kamal Aljafari’s latest feature documentary, A Fidai Film, is not so much a found footage as a rescued footage film. Recovering a large collection of still and moving images that the Israel Defense Forces looted from the Palestinian Research Center in Beirut in 1982, Aljafari creates a counter-archive of sorts. Stitching together harrowing footage of Palestinians being marched with their hands up or lying dead on the streets while buildings ridden with bullet holes are bulldozed one after the other, Fidai takes on a crucial urgency, highlighting an ongoing history of suffering. The real essence of the film’s cinematic sabotage, however, is Aljafari and Yannig Willmann’s aberrant editing. The archival material, spanning some six decades since the British Mandate to Nakba and beyond, is combined with Israeli audiovisual propaganda and melodramas shot on occupied territory. Aljafari renders illegible all the captions added onto the video materials by Israeli military and researchers; blots out the faces of the fictional film characters to draw attention to the locale and the absurdity of filming love stories there, in which couples keep remarking how “wonderful” their situation is; and colors Palestinians and their land and rivers in red silhouettes, so as to evoke past and present bloodshed. In this way, he fights against the Israeli settlers’ attempt to reduce Palestine and its people into anthropological signs and gloss over a painful collective history. In A Fidai Film, audiovisual memory is reclaimed, and archival film thrums with a vibrant, subversive force.