Coinciding with the famous Cannes film festival is another world film festival – this one is in Gaza. Now in its second year, The Gaza Film Festival is a five-day event featuring thirty feature films, shorts and documentaries produced by Palestinians as well as filmmakers from the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
Atef Askoul, the Culture Ministry official, says that Gazans “love watching American films,” but “we are an Islamic society.” More specifically, Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, implements strict censorship practices. According to the New York Times, “Hamas officials insisted on censoring the festival’s offerings, editing out profanity, kissing and women in short skirts.” Director of the event, Khalil Mozayen, responded with, “You work in the margins, and this is what is possible for you.”
Despite the obstacles, the return of cinema is a major feat in itself. “The last time I went to the cinema in Gaza was in 1976,” said one of the guests, Ahmad Gherbawi, 60, a professor at a university in Saudi Arabia who has been “stuck” in Gaza for two years because of border restrictions. “We were in love with Bruce Lee,” says the professor. Decades ago, he continues, “Gaza was beautiful and free.”