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Sonia Nettnin Film Review: I Remember 1948

Film Review: I Remember 1948

By Sonia Nettnin At The Chicago Palestine Film Festival

(Photo courtesy of CPFF)

The narrative documentary, “I Remember 1948,” explores the lives of four, Al-Nakba (The Palestinian Catastrophe) survivors.

After living in the Palestinian Diaspora for 58 years, they share the intimate details of their lives at the time Zionist terror gangs invaded their villages and expelled Palestinian families for more land. From1947-49 an estimated 750,000 Palestinians fled Palestine. It is the side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict told from the Palestinian, historical perspective.

Director Fadia Kisrwani Abboud interviews the survivors, who expose some of their most painful, life memories of what happened to them as boys, girls and young adults. After the UN General Assembly passed a UN Partition Plan in 1947, UN Resolution 181, they divided Palestine for the creation of the State of Israel. Israeli gangs destroyed Arab villages with bombs, canon fire, mortar shells, tanks, and flaming garbage cans of gasoline that set the villages on fire.

One man explains that in his village the Arab and Assyrian forces left. Then the Zionist Army invaded the village. The villagers gathered in a building. When it became too crowded some of the people walked away to find refuge elsewhere. Later on the people who left learned that the Zionist Army separated the Palestinian women and children from the men, who remained in the building. Then the soldiers lined the Palestinian men in a queue and shot them dead in front of their families.

The crimes against Palestinians in this man’s village were not an isolated incident. Razed villages, mass assassination of the male population, the rape and slaughter of women and children, and burning people alive while they stood locked inside buildings and mosques are the reasons why the Palestinians call it Al-Nakba – the Catastrophe.

As people tell their life experiences the camera moves to images of oranges rolling alongside a sea shore and floating in the water. The oranges (in Arabic, “burtaaqal”) elicit the emotions and actions within their personal narratives. The background music - a distant cello, oud solos and cries from a violin - enhance the peoples’ emotions.

For example a man recalls how he fled to Port Jaffa, where panicked and scared people rushed to dock small boats called jirrims, which would take them to ships anchored in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the fact the Palestinians were fleeing from the violence, Zionist militia were still firing at the people when they were in the water. These small boats could only hold so many people, which left people stranded on shore. During his narrative the scene moves to the oranges floating in the sea, as if they represent the abandoned people, who would live or die throughout the Catastrophe.

When there is no food, what happens to the mother whose breasts cannot produce enough milk to feed her two babies? Other family members have to find another nursing mother who can breastfeed them. The oranges stranded on the shore represent her personal tragedies told for the first time in front of a camera. While she tells her horrific, life experiences her husband sits next to her, His hands shake. Their horrific experiences are signified in the oranges standing still and scattered across the sand. The ebb tide carries the villages, the people, their stories, their untold deaths and suffering before their last breaths.

Can a baby survive a trip from Gaza to Lebanon on a mule cart when the baby keeps falling off?

The oranges are the fallen fruit from the land of milk and honey. Palestine was the land that gave the Palestinians all the fruits and vegetables to feed their families, now washed away in sea foam. The Catastrophe is about what happened in 1948, but it is the long-term loss of fertile, cultivated land and the Palestinian way of life that makes Al-Nakba like sea waves: constant and unchanging.

Just as Al-Nakba is about the lifelong, generational consequences that resulted from the loss of land, livelihood and self-determination, the expulsion is alive within the survivors, who hope to return to their homeland Palestine.

One man shares the violence he witnessed: “you see there was a pool of blood around the body of the mother and the baby crying and then one tank came along and really run over the body and the baby as well and I was watching the blood coming out of the soil that really picture if I live 1000 years you think I can forget that? Nobody can forget this.”

The sunlight, seawater and oranges move together like images in a dream. While the people tell their memories their words bring vivid images to life. Al-Nakba is about the active loss of identity and culture in the homeland. The Palestinians belong to the land because it shaped their identity as a people.

The cataclysm in 1948 Palestine fragmented the land, the people and their minds. It is about generations of longing, hope and resilience. What happened to the boy who ate garbage for 29 days, or the girl left behind when her mother grabbed a pillow by mistake during the bombing? Their stories represent thousands of people. Perhaps their stories can be heard in the waves that touch the shores where people slept inside tents or they ran for their lives.

“I Remember 1948” is about the lives of Diaspora Palestinians after the fall.

This film (in Arabic and English with English subtitles) will be showing May 17 – 20 at St. Xavier University, located at 3700 W. 103rd St. for the 5th Annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival. For schedule information please visit

On screen
Soliman Al-Halawani – Abu Daoud
Dib El Chami – Haj Abu Mustafa
Rafica El Chami Batach – Heje Om Mustafa
Fouad Charida
Dr. Mahmoud Hourani

Off Screen
Abdulrahim Abdulrahim – Abu Fadi
George Dabbagh
Farah Telegraph
Haj Daoud
Haj Hussneh Eldamouni
Haj Moussa Rubi
Itaf Khalil
Jalal Asfour
Kassem Kaddora
Leila Telegraph
Leila Zkout – Om Ahmed
Mahmoud Yousuf Sultan
Nicola Awad – Abu Jalal
Nicola Nour
Nigal Nour
Salim Issa

Rihab Charida instigated the “I Remember 1948” project, an exhibition by Arab artists inspired by stories of the “Nakba” (The Catastrophe) Sydney, Australia 2003

Martha Ansara – Executive Producer
Sohail Dahdal – Producer
Fadia Kisrwani Abboud – Director
Katrina Barker – Editor
Fadia Kisrwani Abboud – Editor
Dominika Ferenz – Cinematography
Soraya Asmar – Artistic Director
John Nikolakopoulos – Sound-Gaffer
Maissa Alameddine – Archival Research
Fern Madden – Make Up
Joseph Abdo – Subtitles
Finn O’Keefe – Sound design
Jalal Abdallah – Arabic voice

“I Remember Palestine”
Music composed and performed by
Jospeh Tawadros (Cello, Oud, Violin)
James Tawadros (Percussion)
Original Mix by Michael Kennett
Duration: 24 minutes

Gene Siskel Film Center Schedule

Film Name Days and Times Showing

-Waiting Sat. May 6 at 7 P.M. and Wed. May 10 at 6 P.M

-Covering Perils: Sun. May 7 at 3 P.M.
Four Shorts on
Palestinian Themes

-Improvisation Sat. May 13 at 3:30 P.M. and Tues. May 16 at 6:30 P.M.
-Isochronism: Twenty-Four (films shown together on both days)
Hours in Jabba

-Avenge But One Sat. May 13 at 5 P.M. and Wed. May 17 at 8 P.M.
Of My Eyes

-All that Remained Mon. May 15 at 6:15 P.M. and Thurs. May 18 at 6:15
-Last Supper at Abu-Dis (films shown together on both days)

-Kings and Extras Fri. May 19 at 6 P.M. and Mon. May 22 at 8:15
-The Fourth Room (films shown together on both days)

-Since You’ve Been Gone Sat. May 20 at 3:15 P.M. and Tues. May 23 at 6 P.M.
-Yasmine’s Song (films shown together on both days)

-The Last Moon Sat. May 20 at 5 P.M. and Wed. May 24 at 6 P.M.


U.S. journalist and film critic Sonia Nettnin writes about social, political, economic, and cultural issues. Her focus is the Middle East.

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