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Sonia Nettnin: A Gem of a Film Festival

A Gem of a Film Festival

By Sonia Nettnin

After five years I have decided to write some of the reasons why the Chicago Palestine Film Festival is one of Chicago’s cinematic treasures.

The film festival, one of the few of its kind in North America, features films by Palestinian filmmakers and films about Palestine. The films cover a range of artistic, cultural, social, economic, and political topics that appeal to diverse audiences.

Business people, college students, political critics, educators, city workers, and artists have always been within the mix of the crowd. People may or may not know about the Palestinians, but after they come out of the theater they can say they learned something about Palestinians, their narrative and current struggles not shown on the evening news.

Do you know where Palestinians are from? Every year, the film festival answers that question with a different film. This year one of the films is “I Remember 1948,” by Director Fadia Kisrwani.

If you like music, learn more about Arabic music in “Improvisation,” directed by Raed Andoni. Moviegoers have the unique opportunity to hear and see three oud (Arabic fretless lute) players from Nazareth, Trio Joubran, and the journey the three brothers face with their music. If you missed their performance at the World Music Festival last November, here is the chance to travel from Nazareth and Ramallah to Europe with them in film.

What is film festival without romance, which can be found in “Yasmine’s Song,” written and directed by Najwa Najjar. Will Yasmine and Ziyad be together in the end?

Come to the festival and find out. There will be 22 films playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center (May 6 – 24), located at 164 N. State St. and St. Xavier University (May 17 – 20) located at 3700 W. 103rd St. The film festival committee, a group of dedicated volunteers and experts in this film genre, are always on hand to answer your questions about the films and their diverse subjects.

Also, what makes the festival interesting is they sell posters, t-shirts and mugs, along with organic, fair trade olive oil and olive soap direct from Palestine. The smell and feel of olive soap in a morning shower or the taste of olive oil from the Holy Land is enough to make a person’s day. The festival provides these unique gift opportunities with Mother’s Day around the corner and May and June as the months for graduates.

The CPFF is an independent, not-for-profit, non-sectarian project based in Chicago. The annual festival is a program service of the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society.

For more information please visit

This year will be my third year writing film reviews for the festival. My coverage of the festival will be at and More film critics will be covering the festival at


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