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Palestinian documentary to screen at Duke

Special to The Chronicle
Special to The Chronicle
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the subject of heated debate for many years. Numerous books, films, and pieces of art have, with varying degrees of bias, been created about the issue. On Nov. 14, the Duke community will have the chance to become a part of this ongoing conversation at a Screen/Society film screening of Khaled Jarrar’s debut documentary, “Infiltrators.”

“Infiltrators” follows attempts by Palestinians to get around the various barriers that restrict movement in the West Bank. The film, directed by Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar, seeks to provide a uniquely objective view of the conflict and the consequences of the intense tensions between the opposing sides.

“It’s an image of reality,” producer Mohanad Yaqubi said of the film. Yaqubi joined the project when Jarrar was searching for a few people to help polish the film. “Three years ago [Jarrar] came and said ‘I have fifty hours of footage. What can I do with that?’ This is where our roles as creative producers started,” Yaqubi explained.

The end product that the crew sought was an objective film that also kept an artistic view of the moments portrayed.

“There is the human level that everyone agrees with, and there is the cinematic level of it. That becomes the more interesting part,” Yaqubi said of the film.

Although not much is known about the film in the United States due to its limited availability, there is already significant buzz surrounding it from international sources. Since the film premiered in the 2012 Dubai Film Festival, winning the Muhr Arab Documentary Prize, the Special Jury Prize and the International Critics Prize, it has gone on to festivals and screenings in Barcelona, London, Edinburgh, Chicago, Boston and Cairo.

“It got rave reviews when it screened in the Middle East and in London,” said Professor Shai Ginsburg, Andrew W. Mellon assistant professor for Hebrew and Jewish studies.

Ginsburg sees it as particularly telling that the film has already reached the United States.

“We don’t have too many Palestinian documentaries out there. On the contrary, those that are made rarely make it here," Ginsburg said.

He hinted at the possible aspirations of this documentary by mentioning that the last major Palestinian film to make it to the United States was "Five Broken Cameras," which went on to the Academy Awards and received significant press.

After the showing, there will be a follow-up discussion with the co-director of the Palestine Film Foundation in London, Nick Denes.

“Part of Screen/Society’s mission is to facilitate this type of critical engagement with cinema, where the spectator’s experience is not limited to a passive viewing of a film, but continues on after the film,” wrote Screen/Society Program Coordinator Hank Okazaki in an email Nov. 11.

The hope of the organizers of the event is that Denes can bring new ideas into the conversation of Israel, Palestine and the role of media in the conflict.

“We have a lot of discussion about the victimizing of the Palestinians. We tried to take that out and just show real occasions,” Yaqubi said of the film.

This viewpoint should provide a unique perspective, highlighted by the fact that the documentary is telling a day-to-day, real story.

“It’s really just a film documenting the trials of a body facing the obstacle of a concrete wall,” said Yaqubi, emphasizing that though the subjects of the film are Palestinian, the themes are universal.

Ultimately, Yaqubi hopes to engage an international audience, noting that he would prefer for the film to be broadcast on television at some point. For now, the Duke community can view this film and interact with an influential figure in Palestinian film.

“Infiltrators” will screen in White Lecture Hall at 7:00 pm on Nov. 14. It will be introduced by Nick Denes, who will lead a Q&A after the screening. For more information, visit


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