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Chicago Palestine Film Festival 

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Now in its fourth year, the Chicago Palestine Film Festival continues through Thursday, April 28, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, and $5 for Film Center members. For more information call 312-846-2800 or see



Shot on video and transferred to 35-millimeter, this 2004 documentary by Simone Bitton is a leisurely study of the Israeli security wall now under construction. The film unfolds mostly in extended long shots of the landscape, with commentary from Jews and Palestinians, most of them standing offscreen out of concern for their safety. Intercut with these cinematic postcards is an interview with General Amos Yaron of the defense ministry, who sits at a table flanked by Israeli flags as he defends the wall. With its rigid formal conception, this can be maddeningly dull, yet it presents a wealth of social detail and some penetrating wisdom from the unseen citizens, none of whom seems to think that razor wire or slabs of concrete will end the age-old antagonism. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 100 min. (JJ) (8:15 PM)


Sense of Need

Shrady Srour's debut narrative feature (2004) about a Palestinian student in San Francisco is so idiosyncratic it drifts into the experimental, with mixed results. Srour plays Joseph, whose tension over his approaching finals unleashes traumatic memories of Israel and exacerbates his sense of cultural dislocation. Nervous exhaustion sends him to the hospital, where Arab and Jewish doctors each claim him as their own, as if somehow they knew Joseph's home sits on the border between west and east Jerusalem. The theme of Joseph's divided personality is further explored in a violent animated sequence and a meandering subplot about psychotherapy, but these don't work as well as the darkly comic flashbacks to Israel, where Srour displays a debt to Jacques Tati and American slapstick. In English and subtitled Arabic and Hebrew. 90 min. (AG) (3 PM)

R Haifa

Except for the opening scene, when two Palestinian youths are seen fleeing Israeli soldiers, writer-director Rashid Masharawi refrains from dramatizing the usual adversarial encounters in this captivatingly elegiac film. At the center of the story is the fondly regarded title character, named after the coastal city he longs to travel to but will never reach. Mohammad Bakri, a prominent Palestinian actor, gives a towering performance as a noble fool who shouts humorously cryptic proclamations as he walks the dusty streets of his Gaza Strip village, much to the delight of passersby. The narrative also highlights the travails of a former policeman reduced to working as a cotton candy vendor, his two activist sons, one incarcerated and the other in danger of joining him, and his long-suffering wife. With great economy, Masharawi reveals the emotional essence of a displaced people; the final shot is utterly haunting. With Fadi el-Ghoul and George Ibrahim. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 90 min. (JK) (5:45 PM)

Palestine Chronicle: The Roads of Anger

Miguel Littin, a Chilean filmmaker whose family is part of the Palestinian diaspora, journeyed to Israel and the occupied territories for this personal record (2001) of the second intifada. The director briefly traces the historic roots of the present conflict, leading to his focus on the network of checkpoints and roadblocks that impede or deny Palestinians' access to or from Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, effectively curtailing livelihoods and stunting independence. Although he attempts some measure of balance by the inclusion of Israelis (such as filmmaker Amos Gitai) who oppose Ariel Sharon's policies, Littin trains his camera primarily on the civilian victims of army incursions and not once on the terrorist violence that helps perpetuate this horrific cycle of attack and retaliation. In English and subtitled Arabic, Hebrew, French, and Spanish. 64 min. (AG) (7:45 PM)


Palestine Chronicle: The Roads of Anger

See listing for Sat 4/23. (3 PM)

Women in Struggle

In this 2004 video four Palestinian women describe the torture they endured in Israeli prisons. Footage of Israeli house demolitions, which punish whole families, make their descriptions seem credible, as do apparently arbitrary Israeli threats to separate one father from his wife and children. But by following each woman separately and eschewing narration, director Buthina Canaan Khoury has created a loosely structured piece with no cogently argued thesis. She also underplays the fact that one of her subjects was a bomber--the woman says only that she's "uncomfortable" about the deaths she caused--eliding a major reason for Israel's harshness. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. (FC) Khoury will attend the screening. (5:45 PM)



See listing for Fri 4/22. (6 PM)

Women in Struggle

See listing for Sun 4/24. Khoury will attend the screening. (8 PM)


Sense of Need

See listing for Sat 4/23. (6 PM)


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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Oslo Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place
September 10
Performing Arts
His Shadow 16th Street Theater, Berwyn Cultural Center
September 05

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