Palestinian Refugee Children Explore Their Dreams, Fears on Screen

Published November 29th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Palestinian-Lebanese director Mai Al Masri is currently in Dubai to screen her latest film, Ahlam Al Manfa (Frontiers of Dreams and Fears), which has already won four awards, according to the UAE daily Al Bayan. 

The film won the Black Horse prize at the Ismaeliya Documentary Film Festival after securing three other awards. 

From Shatila camp in Beirut to Dheisha camp in Bethlehem, Frontiers of Dreams and Fears is the story of two Palestinian refugee girls and their extraordinary journey to the borders of exile separating then from their childhood and from each other. 

“In Frontiers of Dreams and Fears, I tried to combine narrative and documentary film, as I'm accustomed to, by following the dramatic sequence of events through a number of characters, mixed with in-depth plunges into the story’s live documentary scenes. This is in addition to my keenness on highlighting children’s spontaneity in front of the camera, which is helped with my love and relationships with them over the course of many years.  

"I consider this film the third in the series of children’s films. I have not yet satisfied my hunger for such films, since Palestine is full of moving humanitarian stories,” Masri told a press conference in Dubai. 

“The film tackles the children’s lives and their circumstances through the secret of the two girls - Muna, 13, from Shatila refugee camp in Beirut and Manar, 14, from Dhaishah refugee camp in the Occupied Territories. The film highlights the spirit of joy and belonging among children in the two camps despite their extremely difficult financial and psychological problems,” added Masri. 

The director noted that the “film carries us with Muna and Manar on their childhood journey to live the story on two sides, separated by barbed wire, and longing which destroys isolation, and smiles for the future. This is accomplished through these two refugee girls. We go into the reality of the camp and its Palestinian generation, the forgotten and marginalized generation.” 

Responding to a question on her seeking the children’s help, as she did in previous films, Masri said, “children and women express their feelings in a more deep manner, which leaves its effects on me as a director. This is because they address me from inside. My relationships with the film's children is old and goes back to three years ago when I directed the film Atfal Shatila (Children of Shatila) in which some participated. The relationship has continued over the past three years, and my concern for them has been not only for cinematic purposes, but also for humanitarian reasons." 

In 1998, Masri shot her documentary Children of Shatila, which focuses on the lives of two Palestinian children: Farah, age 11 and Issa, age 12. Given video cameras, the two express the realities of their daily lives and their history. The story of the camp evolves from their personal narratives as Farah and Issa articulate the feelings and hopes of their generation. 

Fifty years after the exile of their grandparents from Palestine, the children of the Shatila camp attempt to come to terms with the overwhelming realities of being refugees in a place that has survived massacres, sieges and starvation – 

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