Leeds Palestinian Film Festival – International Women’s Day


For 2017 International Women’s Day we had two special screenings exploring women’s lives in Palestine & Israel.

The first was 3000 Nights on Sunday 5th March 15.00 at Hyde Park Picture House LS6 1JD.

Layla is an ordinary young Palestinian school teacher, arrested on false charges and incarcerated with criminals in a high security Israeli women’s prison. Somehow she manages to transcend the bleakness of her situation. 1hr 43mins, see cinema for ticket prices.

The next one – back by popular demand! – was The Promised Band on Saturday 11th March at 13.30 at the cafe at Blackwells Bookshop LS2 9HJ

The moving true story of an attempt to create dialogue and friendship between Israeli and Palestinian women, using the device of a rock band to help them cross physical, legal and cultural barriers. The women’s lives are deeply affected, in unexpected ways.  90 mins, lift access, refreshments, entry free – donations welcome

Last year ….

After our first festival in 2015, we had a bigger and better festival last year! It ran from 4 November to 9 December, with an impressive array of films covering so many aspects of Palestinian society and history.  Ranging from Skateboarding in the West Bank to a hard hitting documentary following an ambulance crew during the last attack on Gaza.  We had a great Film and Food night and a couple of fascinating Question and Answer sessions with some of the film producers.  We also had stalls selling lovely Palestinian produce, ceramics and crafts. If you missed the festival see below for details, some films you can watch online.  Also if you want to more information or are interesting in organising a film screening, please email us on info@leedspsc.org.uk.

Ambulance shown on 4 November, 6 November and 8 November at the Everyman, film length 80 mins, proudly presented in partnership with Leeds International Film Festival.

While many young people dream of leaving Gaza, Mohamed Jabaly, 24, wants to help. He aspires to make films, despite the lack of water and electricity, and closed borders that are part of “normal” every-day life under the seven-year Israeli blockade of Gaza.

When he hears the news of a new Israeli offensive on Gaza in July 2014 he decides he cannot merely “wait for death” but must do something. He joins an ambulance crew to document the war.  This is a raw, first-person account of a country under siege. While thousands of things are published on the recurring violence in Gaza, the stories behind them remain hidden. Not this one.

Ambulance won a prize in the Sunbird film awards – read more in the Global Herald:



The Great Book Robbery shown on 19 November at the cafe of Blackwells Bookshop, film length 48 minutes.

When Palestinians were expelled from their land in 1948, Israeli soldiers were accompanied by librarians as they entered Palestinian homes in many towns and villages. Their mission was to collect as many valuable books and manuscripts as possible. They are said to have gathered over 30,000 books from Jerusalem and another 30,000 from Haifa and Jaffa. The full extent of the ‘collection’ policy was revealed in 2008 when an Israeli PhD student stumbled across documents in the national archive.

Using eyewitness accounts by both those who took part in seizing the books, and those whose books were taken, this film by Benny Brunner tries to understand why thousands of books still languish in the Israeli National Library vaults and why they have not been returned to their rightful owners. Was it cultural preservation or robbery?  This film can be watched on line: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myvobIkwkNM



The Promised Band shown on 21 November at Shine.

This film follows the story of a fake rock band comprised of Israeli and Palestinian women who have decided that, despite their dubious musical talent, a music group is the best cover story to meet and interact with each other.  Aided by a naive but well-meaning American TV producer, the unlikely musicians have to cross borders, repeatedly and sometimes illegally.  Although their societies are kept apart by the Israeli separation wall, solid concrete 26-feet tall and 3-feet thick, the women connect on their sameness, and their lives become entangled in ways they couldn’t expect.  Together, they realize that while they have nothing to fear from each other, peace may be impossible in a place where their friendship is criminalized, and women’s voices can be easily drowned out.



Double Bill Epicly Palestine’d and The Idol shown on 25 November at Heart

Epicly Palestine’d is the story of how a small group of teenagers created a skate scene from scratch in a place where you can’t even buy a skateboard, whilst facing the challenges of living under military occupation.  When British skaters Theo Krish and Phil Joa arrived in Palestine, they had no idea how vibrant the West Bank skate scene would be. They never set out to make a film, but meeting local skaters and hearing their stories had such an effect on the pair that it convinced them to turn the interviews and skate footage they shot into a documentary. Even if skateboarding isn’t your thing, you will love this film. Thanks to Theo, one of the film makers,  for a very insightful Question and Answers session after the film.  Click on the above film link to watch it online

Acclaimed Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad’s (Paradise Now, Omar) latest film The Idol is a moving, defiantly uplifting biopic of Muhammad Assaf, the Gazan wedding singer who became a worldwide TV sensation in 2013. Growing up in battle-scarred Gaza, Muhammad dreams of musical stardom. In his twenties – now struck by tragedy, and desperate to transcend the troubled place of his birth – he enters Arab Idol, hoping against all odds to win.




Rough Stage shown on 29 November at Perform 1, Leeds Beckett Calverley, 

An artist at heart, Maher, electrical engineer and former political prisoner wants to stage a contemporary dance performance in Ramallah. His family disapprove, money’s a problem and cultural problems intercede.  Will he realise his dream despite barriers, both political and cultural?  Toomas Jarvet’s Rough Stage employs breath-taking desert scenes and urban locations, set as a backdrop to Maher’s art.



Balls, Barriers and Bulldozers shown on 1 December at Otley Courthouse.  Proudly presented with Otley Film Society.

This documentary film is about a women’s football tour to the West Bank. It’s about football, and so much more.  The tour aimed to build solidarity with the women footballers of Palestine and for the UK teams (including Leeds based Republica women’s team) to learn about life under occupation.  Changed by the people they met and being witnesses to the daily realities of life under occupation, they vowed to share their story on their return.   We showed this film last year and as we loved it so much we are showing it again!  Thanks to Claire and Cathy (from the Republica women’s team) and Harry from Bristol joined them for their great Q & A session after the film.



Speed Sisters shown on 6 December at Hyde Park Picture House. 

This film follows the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene. Weaving together their lives on and off the track, this film takes you on a surprising and fascinating journey.



Film, Food and Fundraising Night: Flying Paper and Return to Seifa shown on 9 December, 19.00 at Woodhouse Community Centre.

We closed this year’s festival with these moving films.  Profits from the ticket sales and donations for the food went to Flying Paper Productions to enable ongoing media productions in the Gaza Strip.  Flying Paper Productions work with local Palestinian journalists and artists in Gaza to create thought provoking short documentaries that highlight the daily struggles and talented artists living and working in the Gaza Strip.  “Return to Seifa” and  recently released “Tawfiq’s Reef” are the first of these productions and can be watched online by clicking on the Return to Seifa link above.

Flying Paper, directed by Nitin Sawhney and Roger Hill, is an uplifting story of Palestinian youth in the Gaza Strip on a quest to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown. A film co-produced with young filmmakers in Gaza. The film is intimate and direct, following the lives of a handful of young Palestinians in the simple act of making and flying kites in the desolate yet stunningly beautiful landscapes of Gaza. The extraordinary stories of the young people involved leaves the audience with a new understanding and connection to life on this enigmatic little strip of land on the Mediterranean.

Return to Seifa follows the progress of two siblings in the film, Flying Paper. Now young adults, they confront the aftermath of war, adapting to the harsh realities of yet another violent disruption to their hopes and aspirations. This is a deeply moving story about the impact of war on communities, especially its youth. It includes powerful images taken by award-winning photographer Anne Paq, working closely with young Gazan journalist Abeer Ahmed.


The next LPFF will be in 2017, if you are interested in getting involved or letting us know about a film, please contact us on info@leedspsc.org.uk.

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