Palestinian 'roadblock movies'

Nurith Gertz, George Khleifi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many of the Palestinian artists who began to direct films in the 1990s, bad grown up under Israeli occupation, mainly in the West Bank, in refugee camps, in Gaza, and matured or worked in this decade of increasing national tension during and between the two intifadas. These filmmakers have found it difficult to create the spaces that previous cinema succeeded in creating in their films. They also found it difficult to deconstruct this space as did previous directors (Michel Khleifi, Elia Suleiman or Rashid Masharawi). As the intifada strengthened and the Israeli occupation became more deeply felt, the entire space seemed to be threatened, narrowed or reduced, and the films found it difficult to encompass the wholeness and unity of the home and the outside, to describe the mundane life within them, and to connect them to past times. Many of them also failed to preserve the ambivalence and heterogeneity that made it possible, in previous films, to create the national story from - and through - individual stories, and to connect the private place to the public one. Since the end of the 1990's, and now, at the beginning of the present decade, it has become difficult for the Palestinian cinema both to create and to deconstruct a whole imaginary map - and to produce from this map a heterogeneous, multi-cultural space. In the films made in the 1990s and 2000s the public space is blocked, the private space is missing or destroyed, and the only place left intact is the border. In this case, however, the bo rder is not the defining line that might divide, as Tuathail an Dalby phrase it, us from them. It does not part any longer the world into good and evil and does not leave the demonic effects out. On the other hand, the border is not a threshold linking between cultural identities. The article traces the difficulty the Pale stinian films of the 90s face in presenting "visual order of space", in mapping the Palestinian territory with the aid of the camera or by editing, in clearly distinguishing between the inside and the outside. On the other hand the article analyzes the impossibility, in this situation of an insecure territory, to describe "plurality of space and the multiplicity of possible political constructions of space", to create maps that put the dispersed pieces together to form a "larger picture and to draw out connections and causalities between them". The article also summarizes the strategies recent Palestinian cinema uses in order to overcome these impasses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-334
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


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