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Sonia Nettnin Film Review: Nour's Dream

Film Review: Nour's Dream

By Sonia Nettnin At The Chicago Palestine Film Festival

Will Nour's Dream become reality? (Photo courtesy of CPFF)

The documentary, "Nour's Dream," takes viewers on a cultural, political and historical journey of Palestine and her people in the cities of Akka, Nablus and Sebastia.

A young girl named Nour has a dream within her dream. She finds a gold rock as she looks across the land. Then she wakes up from the dream within her dream after the rock lands in her room in the dream! For centuries stone has been a part of Palestinian life. Stone represents the land. The buildings and streets where they live and work are made of stone. In Nablus is St. Jacob's Well Church, built over seven centuries ago. The church is a part of the peoples' life, whether they worship there or they live around the church. Outside of the church two girls play a game called Qellat, which is something like jacks, but they use squares stones instead.

For generations Palestinians have made a bread called Tabbun, which is baked in an oven made of sand, straw, water, and Doff stone. In the past, ancient mills for grinding wheat came from stones of the sea. Akka (also known as Akko and Acre), located 110 km NNW of Jersualem was considered the "Key to Palestine" because of its geographic location. The 1947 UN Partition Plan designated Akka as part of the Arab Palestinian state. However, on May 17, 1948, 58 years ago today, the Jewish Haganah occupied Akka. Three-fourths of the Arab population fled in Al-Nakba, the Catastrophe, and Akka has been under Israel's control. When Nour visits Akka she sees the 13th century fortress of the Knights of Templar along the shore. Stone walls protrude into the bay.

For the people, the stones are witnesses to history. They contain stories. With poetic words Nour narrates how important and meaningful stones are to Palestinian history and culture. In the ancient city of Sebastia, located 10 km NW of Nablus, the archaeological site includes ancient city walls, a Roman forum, coliseum, theater, temple, and churches. Until 1987 the city had ancient artifacts such as statues, but Israelis took out some of the artifacts and put them into a Jerusalem museum. In 1976 Israelis tried to colonize near Sebastia's train station, built during the Ottoman Empire, but the settlers of Gush Emunim were removed. Since 1967 Israel has occupied the West Bank where they have been building settlements declared illegal according to international law.

The Israeli Government and some Israeli citizens say that because the Northern West Bank is ancient Samaria of circa 2000 years ago, they think they have the right to colonize Palestine and expel the indigenous Palestinians from their land. In past negotiations Palestinians have asked for pre-1967 borders, 22 per cent of historic Palestine. However Israeli leadership will not agree, so they continue with unilateral actions, backed by international political and financial support. Hence Israeli forces continue confiscating Palestinian land, building settlements and subjecting the people to military occupation. Although this background information is not in the film, it is important for readers to have for the sake of understanding the film's narrative.

Some of the Israeli settlements have been built on historical sites, which are then destroyed. Through the destruction of archaeological facts on the ground the Israeli settlements are trying to revise the land's history thereby erase Palestinian history and dispossess the people of their historical connections with the land. Sebastia is considered an endangered cultural heritage site. Some of the Israelis who tried to colonize near Sebastia built the settlement of Elon Moreh, just a few kilometers NE of Nablus. Israeli forces only allow the Palestinians to visit the site of Sebastia for an annual festival.

The film's prominent theme is how stones have been a part of the peoples' lives and how the current political situation disrupts the Palestinians' interaction with the land. People no longer have free movement in the cities, or they may no longer have access. When artifacts are taken from historical sites it strips the people of their heritage. Why take antiquities from Sebastia and transfer them to Jersualem when a museum near Sebastia could house the statues instead? In the West Bank, in Nablus and the nearby Balata refugee camp, the largest refugee camp in the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians live under military occupation. Boys throw rocks at Israeli jeeps - the moving vehicles of occupation. Western media focuses on the boys who throw rocks at Israeli tanks, jeeps and trucks, but the media does not explore the history of the occupation and its effects on the people. Throwing stones is an act of resistance, an affirmation of their lives and their determination to be free. Palestinian boys and girls do not want to grow up subjected to violence, so rock-throwing is a demand for their human rights.

When young boys and men are imprisoned they maintain communication with the outside world through stones. They polish the stones until they are smooth so they can engrave words and decorations on them. The stones help them pass the time and the stones they send to family members lets them know they are still alive.

Palestinian youth maintain their culture by learning about their history. Performances and interviews with the members of the A'edoon Debkeh Group demonstrate how generations of refugees keep their culture and history alive.

The people will not forget.

This film (in Arabic with English subtitles) will be showing at St. Xavier University located at 3700 W. 103rd St. for the 5th Annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival on Thursday, May 18 at 7 P.M. On a US tour, directors from the Balata Film Collective will be present for questions and discussion. Admission is free, which means arrive early.


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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