by Omar Manasra
A Palestinian feature film inspired by a true story, recently had its world premiere in Ramallah at the Ramallah Cultural Palace to a packed audience of 900. The film is directed by Najwa Najjar and produced by Hani Kort.
Noted actor Khaled Abol Naga plays a former prisoner who returns to his hometown with a dark secret after serving 10 years in an Israeli jail. The story moves between 2012 and flash backs to 2002, the height of the second Palestinian Intifada (uprising) and Israeli military incursions, and the present. The film was officially picked by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture for Oscar consideration, so it may be nominated officially for academy award.
A psychological drama focusing on key Palestinian issues
The movie focuses on several issues in Palestinian society, water resources, resistance, settlement and collaborators" Najwa Najjar said to PIJ. "The next step is working to show the movie around the world and in many international events," producer Hani Kort told the PIJ. Eyes of a Thief, a psychological drama that is set in the West Bank and begins at the height of the Palestinian uprising in 2002 before leaping to current times, wrapped up shooting last year. And with the editing now complete, the film is finally ready for audience approval.
It’s a psychological thriller about a father with a dangerous secret searching for his daughter,” said Najjar.
At the Cannes Film Festival, the film picked up sizeable interest from international sales agents. The film has co-producers from Algeria and Iceland and several Icelandic crew members were in Palestine for the 25-day shoot.
Film maker Najwa Najjar
Problems few filmmakers face
We shot mostly in Nablus and every single night there were incursions from the Israelis,” said Najjar, highlighting an issue few filmmakers around the world have to deal with. “I remember that there was this gunfire and the crew from abroad asked us what was going on and we were like: ‘Oh, it’s just a wedding.’ We said it jokingly, but of course it’s a huge responsibility. You have to make sure everyone’s safe – that’s why we prepared for about a month with all the necessary factions.”
Hard to bring an Arab actor into the country
Apart from the concern of living under occupation, the most worrying situation for Najjar was actually getting her main actor, the Egyptian star Khaled Abol Naga, into the West Bank.
It’s very hard to bring an Arab actor into the country and Khaled’s permission was eventually delayed by two weeks,” she says. “We were already in pre-production and didn’t know whether he would be able to make it. As time went on, my producer went to Khaled – who was waiting in Jordan – and said that it wasn’t looking good. He called me up and said he was still hopeful. Two days later, the permission finally came through. You should have heard the yelling and screaming from the cast and crew when we heard.”
Najjar is currently waiting to hear back to see where Eyes of a Thief will have its international premiere, which is likely to happen at one of the major film festivals coming up in the next few months.