x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A voice for the refugees

A documentary film about the experiences of displaced Palestinians is screened in Abu Dhabi.

Adam Shapiro, the director and producer, helped create Chronicles of a Refugee.
Adam Shapiro, the director and producer, helped create Chronicles of a Refugee.

ABU DHABI // A documentary film about the experiences of displaced Palestinians was screened in the capital last night. Chronicles of a Refugee, a six-part series which was edited and produced in Dubai, features interviews with 250 refugees from 18 countries. Adam Shapiro, one of three filmmakers who collaborated on the production, said he hoped the documentary would provoke discussion and lead to the voices of young Palestinians being heard across the globe.

He said: "The idea behind the film is to use people's personal experiences as a starting point to generate change. To create a platform for those who would not normally get heard." Mr Shapiro, an American, and his fellow filmmakers, Perla Issa, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, and Aseel Mansour, who was born in Iraq to Palestinian parents, chose to limit their choice of interviewees to those, or the descendants of those, directly displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

They spoke to the educated, non-educated, rich, poor, old and young. The oldest interviewee was a 106-year-old woman living in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. Mr Shapiro said: "She was 46 when she was forced out of her home in a small village where she survived a massacre but like most of the other refugees, she thought she would be back in a week. Now it is 60 years later and her life has been cut in half."

Mr Shapiro moved to the West Bank in 1999 as part of efforts to foster better relations between Israeli and Palestinian youth. During the Israeli military operation in the West Bank and Gaza in March 2002 he made international headlines when he took an ambulance into Yasser Arafat's compound. In August of that year he was arrested and expelled from the Palestinian Territories, forcing him to leave his home, his wife and extended family.

Over the next few years Mr Shapiro began making documentaries. Much of his work centred on the almost 10,000 refugees in Baghdad who came under attack after the American occupation of Iraq in 2003. In 2007, he was in Lebanon when the Nahr al Bared camp was destroyed. He said: "All of these events made me realise that no matter where Palestinian refugees were, they faced insecurity and difficulties."

The series is being screened at the Cultural Foundation over the course of this week, and the proceeds will go to the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund. aseaman@thenational.ae