Swiss doc company Lightdox has just acquired world sales rights to documentary “Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege” Abdallah Al-Khatib’s debut, co-produced by Films de Force Majeure and Bidayyat for Audiovisual Arts, premieres in Vision du Réel’s platform on April 21 in its main International Feature Competition
A Lebanon, France and Qatar co-production, the film follows the lives of Palestinian refugees living in the district of Yarmouk in Damascus, Syria. As the Syrian revolution breaks out, the biggest Palestinian refugee camp comes under siege and its inhabitants finish up cut off from the world, without food, medicine and electricity.
Al-Khatib’s brave debut shapes up as a love letter to his fellow citizens and their humanity amidst a profoundly inhuman situation, sitting perfectly in Lightdox’s sales slate catalog which has titles such as “Broken Land” or the Italian-Swiss “Il Mio Corpo.”
The filmmaker’s courage to keep documenting as his world collapses around him echoes in part U.S. director George Stevens when facing the horrors of WWII – a deep understanding of the strength that an image can have and the urgency for this reality to be seen.
Shot with a handheld camera and apt roughness in form, much of the the ‘diary’ carries its director’s voiceover who wonders how to comprehend and live with dignity under such injustice.
“The Siege will expel humanity from the hidden crevices of the soul,” he says at one point.
Beginning phrases in pointed repetition with “The Siege…” the sense of entrapment gains the dimensions of a colossal yet invisible entity as Abdallah’s lyricism tries to makes sense out of the harrowing images as the audience witnesses a whole population slowly but steadily starve to death.
Yet there is hope. As children comb through the rumbles of their home for food, it’s impossible not to be in awe of their determination to live without fear, to grow in a barren land. As Al-Khatib puts it: “When the most obvious answers to simple questions are as rare as a lump of sugar, when you feel like your existence in the universe doesn’t measure up to a sesame seed pull yourself together, don’t surrender. Open your eyes and scream: I will defeat this siege.”