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Telling the Stories of Heim and Heimat, Home and Exile: Recent Palestinian Films and the Iconic Parable of the Invisible Palestine

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This article deals with the appearance of an independent stream of Palestinian documentary cinema, during the 1990's, and its specific characteristics. This it does through concentrating on three films: A Chronicle of Disappearance (Suleiman, 1996) Ustura (Hassan, 1998) and 1948 (Bakri, 1998). The argument is supported by a number of theoretical anchorages examination of early cinema as a Lacanian mirror of self and other, the use of Ethnotopia, a concept used by Nichols and Russell, and the Freudian use of mourning and melancholia in order to deal with personal, social and national loss, as well as an examination of narrative methods and narrativity in the three films. In all three films one element appears to rise and focus our interest story, storytelling, and narration the narrative processes appear crucial to films which work within the documentary tradition, but also hover over the boundary with narrative cinema. This central characteristic, separating them distinctly from the mainstream of documentary film in Israel, also connects them with other strains of documentary, and specifically with Third World cinema and Arab cinema. On this basis, the article locates the role of storytelling as a structure of identity, evidence and memory, after a long period during which this memory was repressed by the Israeli occupation and its atrocities. It seems that this memory produced in the films is capable of displacing and neutralizing some of the power of the processes of melancholia which typify the loss referred to, and may herald a new form of cinema, as well as a new form of discourse within the Israeli and Palestinian arenas.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2002

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  • The journal aims to provide a platform for the study of new forms of cinematic practice and fresh approaches to cinemas hitherto neglected in western scholarship. It particularly welcomes scholarship that does not take existing paradigms and theoretical conceptualisations as given; rather, it anticipates submissions that are refreshing in approach and exhibit a willingness to tackle cinematic practices that are still in the process of development into something new.
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