By Muhanad Salahat*
The Palestinian writer and cinematographer, Rashid Masharawi, believes that films made by Palestinian directors from all over the world share the same cultural identity and dreams. A distinctive feature of the Palestinian cinema is its variety on all levels. This is due to the absence of the clear and specific genre of this cinema because it comes from different cinema schools around the world.
The variety of perspectives and points of view enrich this cinema and make it similar in the same time. Masharawi recently has been a guest in Arab Film Festival Stockholm, which is part of a series of festivals organized by Malmo Arab Film Festival in 13 Swedish cities over 12 months. There he screened his feature film Palestine Stereo, and the documentary film Letters from Al Yarmouk.
Masharawi is one of the early cinematographers in Palestine, or from those who established the second stage of cinema in Palestine, according to his classification. It went through three stages, and he personally experienced two of them. The first stage of the Palestinian cinema was abroad and produced by political factions. It bore many mottos as its directors were members of different political parties, Mustafa Abu Ali and many others were among the founders, and their films were of rebellious nature.
Meanwhile, the experience of Masharawi began in the 1980s, in the second stage. About this stage he said, "This is how cinema was before, I wasn't satisfied about it. I do respect it as cinema and appreciate the conditions from which it emerged. Yet, I felt it doesn't reflect the daily Palestinian life, and the Palestinian character was a martyr, hero, or victim."
At this stage, Masharawi worked closely with the Palestinian director from Nazareth and the resident of Belgium Michel Khleifi. His first Palestinian-produced film that belonged to modern cinema is Fertile Memory in 1980, and prior to the first Intifada in 1987 he produced Wedding Galilee.
Masharawi worked with Khleifi in Wedding Galilee as an art designer. After that, he began working on his own films under the occupation; his first film was Passport then The Shelter that was screened in Berlin Film Festival, where he was identified as a director. His first feature film Until Further Notice won the Golden Pyramid Award in the 17th Cairo International Film Festival. Then it was screened in Cannes Film Festival and won another award. Then, he produced several feature and documentary films, both short and long.
Masharawi is witnessing the third stage of the Palestinian cinema; he found that it is marked with the abundance of young directors. Some of them studied cinema and their films are screened worldwide on televisions and festivals and they get awards. Also, they work hard to improve their cinematic tools. He liked most about this stage is "Palestinians began to think cinematically, they produce cinema as a form of art more than a reaction to the practices of the occupation. That is, cinema has turned into a real action." Masharawi says that he has tendencies to documentary films, he pointed that cinema critics described his documentary films are similar to feature films.
His choices between feature or long films are decided on the subject itself. Documentary cinema is "a reflection of reality while feature films give more space to your view. The director will be in control of the trend, lives, and actions of characters." Masharawi retracted that documentary films are not the exact reflection of reality as "the director choices regarding camera positions and things to show and hide on screen is considered intervention. This is because there are things you want to display and many others to hide. Thus, you as a director impose your point of view even in the editing process."
In documentary cinema, however, writing doesn't complement until the last take in the film is being shot, even the last element in the film such as soundtrack and colour correction. Scenario in documentary films is self-developed; one part is written prior to shooting, once shooting commenced the film is rewritten afresh, and the final version begins with the editing stage."