The Backbone of Cinema is Female – Take One Action! Film Festival
Over the past decade, movies have become indispensable in everyday life. Not only did an increase of cinematic variety, genre and audience happen, but also the aim and purpose of movies have undergone significant change. Movies are an essential medium to get ahold of large groups and to raise awareness for social, political and environmental issues.
This year's ‘Take One Action! Film Festival’ in Glasgow and Edinburgh focuses primarily on movies with the subject of global change. Their slogan 'See the change you want to be in the world' already displays the festival's main aim, namely to encourage joint exploration of stories, ideas and impulses behind a positive social change. This year’s festival celebrates humanity and our ability to contribute to a fairer and more sustainable world by, according to their website, offering more than 40 films, 60% of which have been directed by women.
The movie Naila and the Uprising, directed by Julia Bacha, is not only an outstanding example of female empowerment in the film industry but also underlines the often forgotten importance of female power and influence in political/social movements. In a statement, Bacha said: 'I learned that the lack of visibility of women in protest movements is pervasive. Women often are the backbone of movements, and then are either written out of history or never written into history in the first place.' Having worked together with Naila Ayesh, a Palestinian activist, director and founder of the ‘Women’s Affairs Training and Research Center’ in Gaza, the movie tells about the hidden story of the women who resisted the Israeli occupation and formed the resistance movement, The First Intifada, which lasted from 1987 to 1993. It links animation and exclusive archival footage into a series of fascinating interviews with various women activists and politicians, including Zahira Kamal, Sama Aweidah, the late Rabiha Diab, Jamal Zakout (Ayesh's husband) as well as her son.
But what is the background of this particular story? In 1969, eight-year-old Naila Ayesh experienced the repercussions of the Israeli siege of Palestine first-hand, as her house was demolished by Israeli forces. Following this incident, she channelled her resentment towards the military occupation into activism.
After finishing her education at the Academy of Science in Bulgaria, Ayesh returned with her future husband Jamal Zakout to Ramallah and joined the ‘Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’ focusing on women’s issues. By 1987 Israel’s resentment towards the couple’s activism led to the close monitoring of their movements and concluded in Ayesh’s sudden arrest and torture in the process of interrogation. After two weeks Ayesh was finally released; the incidents, once again, fuelled her readiness to make a change, rather than breaking her spirits.
In 1988 Jamal Zakout was exiled to Cairo due to his political activities, which caused Ayesh to join forces with other women whose spouses had been exiled due to their political activism. Together they planned several actions to reduce Israel’s military power over Palestinian daily life, for example: refusing to pay taxes, boycotting Israeli products, organised mass political strikes, underground classrooms and the growth of local produce as a response to Israeli sanctions following their movements.
The exerted pressure of the women’s activism grew so strong that it ultimately forced the international community to intervene and set up the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, demonstrating the women's' success. And although the movie title contains her name, Ayesh emphasises strongly that this movie is not solely her story: '[w]e fought the occupation collectively, as women. My story is one of many.'
On both days the movie will be screened with the short film I Signed the Petition, about a Palestinian man being thrown into self-doubt after signing an online petition. Both screenings are followed by an open discussion with Naila Ayesh. She will be joined by other guests in Glasgow, including Sofiah MacLeod from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
The movie will be shown on two occasions, on Saturday, September 22nd at 6pm in the Glasgow Film Theatre and on Sunday, September 23rd at 5:45pm in the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. For additional information and to book tickets for the Glasgow venue, click here. For additional information and tickets for the Edinburgh venue click here.