Gene Siskel Film Center and Chicago Palestine Film Festival present
the 19th Annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival;
The World’s Longest-Running Palestinian Film Festival returns
with a Hybrid of Virtual and Drive-in screenings
September 25 - October 16
Chicago Palestine Film Fest promo
From September 25 through October 16, the Gene Siskel Film Center partners with the Chicago Palestine Film Festival to present this postponed (from April) and newly formatted nineteenth annual festival representing the spirit and mood of contemporary Palestinian life. Three drive-in screenings playing on selected dates at Chi-Town Movies in Chicago’s historic Pilsen neighborhood alternate with five films available virtually on the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website at www.siskelfilmcenter.org/CPFF2020. This festival is dedicated to exhibiting film and video work that is open, critical, and reflective of the culture, experience, and vision of the artists.
The Chicago Palestine Film Festival (CPFF), the longest-running Palestinian film festival in the world, is now in its 19th consecutive season, continuing its mission to reflect Palestine and Palestinian culture through the vision of its artists. Because of the pandemic, this year’s festival cannot be hosted at its regular home, the Gene Siskel Film Center on State Street. Instead, CPFF was creative and, in partnership with the Gene Siskel Film Center, found two alternatives to show this year’s line-up: a drive-in movie theater and online showings.
This year’s festival kicks off on Friday, September 25th with GAZA, co-directed by Irish filmmakers Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell. The feature film, which examines the dreams and realities of life in the world's largest open-air prison, was also Ireland's entry for the Oscars' Best International Feature Film, and a Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize nominee. It will be shown at Chi-Town Futbol in Pilsen, marking the first time in CPFF’s history that a movie is being aired at a drive-in.
Chicago has a large and vibrant Palestinian community, and is a natural home for this festival. CPFF welcomes people of all backgrounds and identities to experience Palestinian stories, connecting Palestinian and Arab communities of the Midwest with each other and with the broader community.
“CPFF is a great opportunity to experience Palestinian life and culture through these amazing films. We have some great films and documentaries, including many short films, and we are excited about this year’s line-up of films. I have attended almost every festival since it started in 2001. The pandemic was a surprise and caught everyone off guard, but our team of all-volunteers worked tirelessly to make sure the festival happened, and that we retained the title as the longest-running Palestinian film festival in the world”, said Executive Director Khaled J. Elkhatib.
Ticket prices for the festival films are as follows:
Drive-in tickets = $40, with an early-bird special ticket offer of $28 (30% off) with promo code “CPFF.”
Virtual film tickets = $3 per virtual screening
All-access virtual pass = $10.00
This year's festival is made possible in part through the support of the Crossroads Fund and the hard work of many volunteers.
Below is the complete list of films showing at the 2020 Chicago Palestine Film Festival. Just let me know if you need hi res images or screeners. We’re also happy to connect you with a member of the CPFF team to discuss any of these films.
These three films will all take place at ChiTown Movies 2343 S. Throop St., Chicago, IL 60608:
Friday, September 25, 9:30 pm
Location: ChiTown Movies 2343 S Throop St, Chicago, IL 60608
Price: $28 (early bird special 30% off. Use code: CPFF )
2019, Gary Keane and Andrew McConnell, Ireland/Palestine, 89 min.
The images speak for themselves hauntingly, as Irish filmmakers Keane and McConnell create an entrancingly lyrical and life-affirming portrait of Gaza and its people, even as Israeli shells continue to fall in the streets where children play. Facing the Mediterranean and only 25-miles long and 7-miles wide, this much fought-over strip of ancient land bristles with tenacious life, observed in its moments of joy and playfulness as well as peril. A critical sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, and Ireland’s submission for Oscar consideration, GAZA acutely observes the people with a sensitivity to their struggle that transcends any overt political statement. A boy sleeps on the beach and aspires to own a boat; a teenage cellist plays her heart out; mothers, fathers and children are seen living each day reaching for the right to dream of a future. Preceded by MARADONA’S LEGS (2019, Firas Khoury, Germany Palestine, 23 min). In Arabic with English subtitles.
2019, Philippe Bellaiche and Rachel Leah Jones, Israel, Canada/Switzerland, 108 min.
Thursday, October 1, 7:00 pm
Location: ChiTown Movies 2343 S Throop St, Chicago, IL 60608
Price: $28 (early bird special 30% off. Use code: CPFF
Israeli lawyer Lea Tremel faces the most difficult and case in a long career dedicated to representing Palestinians accused of crimes including terrorism, in this gripping documentary that was short-listed for a 2020 Oscar nomination. The former student activist and human rights champion has been called a traitor, a devil’s advocate and more by fellow Israelis. She is never more controversial than when she steps up to defend a 13-year-old boy charged with attempted murder after he ran through the streets waving an ornamental knife while his 15-year-old cousin (subsequently shot to death by police) carried out a non-fatal stabbing. “I always see the person behind the case,” states Tremel, as the filmmakers take a fly-on-the-wall approach to following the high-profile progress of her defense, even though her odds of victory are near zero. Preceded by SELFIE ZEIN (2019, Amira Diab,Palestine, 11 min. In Hebrew, Arabic, and English with English subtitles. )
2019, Najwa Najjar, Palestine/Iceland/Luxembourg, 92 min.
With Mouna Hawa, Firas Nasser
Thursday, October 8, 5:30 pm
Location: ChiTown Movies 2343 S Throop St, Chicago, IL 60608
Price: $28 (early bird special 30% off. Use code: CPFF)
An urgent road trip in a vintage Mercedes includes psychic detours through the checkered pasts of an attractive middle-class Palestinian couple seeking a quick divorce after five years of marriage. A seeming bureaucratic error leaves Salma (Hawa) and Tamer (Nasser) without an essential document verifying his paternity, sending them on a trek from the West Bank to the Golan Heights in search of a mysterious associate of his dead father. Director Najjar (EYES OF A THIEF, the 2015 Palestinian Oscar entry) weaves together the intimately connected dilemma of two people still ambivalent about their permanent parting with the wider political aspects that confront them at every turn. Salma is the daughter of a Palestinian activist, while Tamer is the son of a writer assassinated in Beirut. Discoveries involving the lives and politics of their parents take on new meaning as the two are forced to see each other in a new light. Preceded by NIGHTMARE OF GAZA (2019, Farah Nabulsi, UK/UAE, 13 min. In Arabic, English, Hebrew, and French with English subtitles.
These five films will stream via the Film Center’s website starting at the date/time shown, with 24-hour screening access:
2019, Abby Martin, USA, 74 min.
Tuesday September 29: 24-hour screening access begins at 8:00 pm (CST)
Journalist/filmmaker Martin (THE EMPIRE FILES) begins this searing documentary with a recap of the historical and political factors that have brought the Gaza Strip to utter devastation in its present state of siege, with a trapped population plagued by poverty, food shortages, and ongoing rocket bombardment. “It looks like we are alive, but we are not,” states an unemployed man who lives with his wife and sixteen children in two rooms with access to electricity only four hours a day. The centerpiece of this film is you-are-there coverage of the Great March of Return in May, 2018, when thousands of frustrated Gaza citizens march peacefully to the razor-wire barricades, only to be randomly picked off by Israeli snipers. Among the hundreds wounded and the 59 dead is paramedic Razan al-Najjar, shot while trying to aid a casualty. Preceded by AMBIENCE (2019, Wisam Al Jafari, Palestine, 15 min. In English, Arabic, and Hebrew with English subtitles.
(EL VIAJE DE LOS OTROS)
2019, Jaime Villarreal, Chile/Jordan/Palestine, 74 min.
Thursday, October 4: 24-hour screening access begins at 8:00 pm (CST)
The cast and crew of Jenin’s Freedom Theater prepares for a risky trip to New York to stage their banned play The Siege, a harrowing drama of six freedom fighters holed up in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. The planned U.S. tour dwindles to a premiere at NYU after other venues back out, and their stage manager is deported in chains upon arrival. The filmmaker parallels these events with a little boy’s symbolic journey to a place safe from violence through the camp’s theater and arts program for children. Preceded by 3 MINUTES (2019, Dima Sharif, UK/Palestine, 4 min.), and THE PIPE (2019, Sami Zarour, Palestine, 10 min.). In English, Arabic, and Hebrew with English subtitles.
2019, Alia Yunis, Jordan/UAE, min.
Sunday, October 11: 24-hour screening access begins at 8:00 pm (CST)
Chicago-born filmmaker Yunis says, “My dad was born in Palestine, and so was olive oil.” Her film journey through the nationally and ethnically diverse olive oil-making world has its heart in Palestine. On the way, Yunis makes an engaging circuit of the Mediterranean, through Italy, Greece, and Spain, exploring the relationship that humankind has cultivated over more than 6,000 years, with the tree that produces the prized golden elixir. Cultural and culinary lore give way to new stories and different meanings in Israel and Palestine, as the filmmaker visits her deceased father’s family for the first time, and experiences the olive tree at the center of a passionate political struggle, the material symbol of an ages-old source of power and a ravaged treasure.
Preceded by MADE IN PALESTINE (2019, Mariam Dwedar, USA, 8 min.) In English, Spanish, Greek, Italian, and Arabic with English subtitles.
2019, Zelda Edmunds, USA, 50 min.
Wednesday, October 14: 24-hour screening access begins at 8:00 pm (CST)
The plight of four Palestinian children charged with crimes and imprisoned by the Israeli military illustrates a series of injustices and inequities, including displacement, the deliberate targeting of children, and routine violence perpetrated against Palestinian youth by both settlers and soldiers. Director Edmunds focuses on the stories of four young teens whose “crimes” ranged from playing in a forbidden area to allegedly throwing stones. Thirteen-year-old Motaz was arrested in the middle of the night, when more than 50 armed and masked soldiers invaded his family’s home to lead him away handcuffed and blindfolded. Fifteen-year-old Nooran went to jail for punching the checkpoint guard who attempted to tear off her top after demanding a strip-search. Twelve-year-old Shadi was imprisoned, tortured, and charged with attempted murder despite a security camera revealing neither a weapon nor a victim. Preceded by JALAS (2019, Olga Arias, Spain, 30 min.) In English and Arabic with English subtitles. (BS)
2019, Ahmed Mansour, USA. 83 min.
Friday, October 16: 24-hour screening access begins at 8:00 pm (CST)
In the culturally diverse neighborhood of New York’s Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Palestinian immigrant Khadar El-Yateem, a Lutheran pastor, mounts a political campaign aimed at becoming the first Arab American elected to the New York City council. Director Mansour follows the charismatic, passionately committed candidate through contentious weeks of energetic grassroots contact with voters and potential voters. Enjoying the community-wide support of Christians and Muslims alike, he faces the challenge that out of an estimated 40,000 Arab Americans in his district, only 400 are registered to vote, many kept away by the language barrier, or fear and intimidation in the post-911 climate. This inspiring but bittersweet saga becomes a rousing fight for change, with El-Yateem aided in strategies by the dynamic Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour. Preceded by IN VITRO (2019, Søren Lind and Larissa Sansour, Denmark/UK/Palestine, 28 min.) In English and Arabic with English subtitles. (BS)
About the Chicago Palestine Film Festival
The Chicago Palestine Film Festival (CPFF) is an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, nonsectarian project based in Chicago that exhibits and promotes films by Palestinian directors and films about Palestine. CPFF is dedicated to presenting a film festival that is open, critical, and reflective of the culture, experience, and vision of the filmmakers.
About the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Since 1972, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented cutting edge cinema to an annual audience that has grown to over 100,000. The Film Center’s programming includes annual film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, restorations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Altogether, the Film Center hosts over 1,700 screenings and 200 filmmaker appearances every year. The Film Center was renamed the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2000 after the late, nationally celebrated film critic, Gene Siskel. Visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org to learn more and find out what’s playing today.
About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
For 150 years, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers, and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program ranked number two by U.S. News and World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. SAIC’s undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate students have the freedom to take risks and create the bold ideas that transform Chicago and the world—as seen through notable alumni and faculty such as Michelle Grabner, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave, and LeRoy Neiman. Learn more at saic.edu.