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Sonia Nettnin Review: Freedom I Have Lost


By Sonia Nettnin

The Bedouin way of life is about travel. In this picture, the men wear white kuffiyehs. As herders, their goats and sheep graze the land. Israel created a C area, which restricts their movement. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Palestine Film Festival).

The bulldozer rolled over the metal-frame homes. Israeli soldiers grabbed the Bedouin men. Women yelled into the air. Horses, camels and sheep ran everywhere.

Within 24-hours, the land became a military zone.

FREEDOM, I HAVE LOST is a documentary about the Bedouin way of life. The third annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival showed it on Sunday.

Since 1948, political forces restricted Bedouin peoples’ movement on the

land. Issa Freij, director of the film, explores the causes behind the eradication of Bedouin way of life.

“I wanted to make a film about a disappearing people,” he said.

Dr. Hussein Bargouti completed research for the film.

The film is based on interviews with the Bedouin people in the area of Beer Shera, Beit Umar, Beni Noaim, and Jaheleen. They talk about what happened to them over the last 50 years and how geo-political changes affected their lives.

“We were driven out at gun point,” one man said. People faced deportation and fought for their survival.

Some of the tribes, like the Ramadeen, moved to settlements. However, lack of water, electricity and sewage facilities creates harsh living conditions. Water is stored in yellow, plastic containers. Winters bring dry wells, so the people struggle.

The expropriation of their land causes socio-economic problems. One Bedouin man said that the Nature Preservation Authorities took away large grazing areas. Without the land, the people cannot herd their animals to food. Without animals, Bedouins cannot participate in business and commerce.

“The world is going forwards and we are going backwards,” another man said.

Without currency, people cannot buy, for example, cars. Vehicles are transportation, but they are a means of integration. The film illustrates the Bedouin culture, but it provokes viewers to ask questions.

In other films I saw at the festival, Israeli-Jewish animal herders lived in proximity of Israeli settlements. What kinds of accommodations were provisioned for these people? If creative solutions exist for people who live on the periphery, what are they?

A 12-year-old boy cries he wants to be an ambulance driver. He saw people die in the desert. In the background, solos on the nay (flute) transition the scenes. Another man tells how border guard police and security forces beat up a pregnant woman. Force takes on many forms in this film, and it shows how force impedes on peoples’ freedom. Therefore the documentary is a record of the use of force against a people, their culture and their freedom.

Through this film, I had my first contact with the Bedouin people. I found it educational and informative. Exposure to the Bedouin’s simple way of life frees the mind, but their personal tragedies do not.


Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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