Portraits of Denial & Desire
A film by John Halaka

“When circumstances are made real by another’s testimony, it becomes possible to envision change.”

James Baldwin.

Portraits of Denial & Desire is a documentary film in progress. The film presents the personal narratives of a small group of Palestinian refugees who have been displaced from their homes and homeland. They continue to struggle, survive and in some cases thrive in exile and under occupation. The 110-minute film is composed of six segments, each telling the story of modern Palestine through the formative experiences, memories and desires of a few individuals who have lived that complex history. At the core of every segment of the film are personal stories selected from three different generations of Palestinian refugees: the 1948 generation that experienced the ethnic cleansing of their homeland; their children who were born in exile or under military occupation and are in their 70’s, 60’s, 50’s; and their grandchildren, also born in exile or under occupation and are now in their 40’s, 30’s and 20’s.

It is my belief and guiding principle in this project that personal experiences narrated directly by an individual, are the most effective method of preserving and conveying history. Personal memories of struggle, survival and resistance in the face of oppression are also the most effective method of igniting social transformation. The African-American writer James Baldwin expressed this approach most clearly when he said: “When circumstances are made real by another’s testimony, it becomes possible to envision change.”

Conversations with Palestinian refugees have been recorded for this film in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. I plan to record stories with Palestinians in Syria, when the civil war there has ended. Those countries (except for Israel, which has a large population of internally displaced Palestinians) hold the largest concentrations of Palestinian refugees as well as United Nations administered refugee camps for Palestinians. There are currently over 7.3 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. Almost none of the refugees that were displaced by Israel since 1948, and their descendants, have been allowed to return to their homeland. The great majority of them have remarkable stories about exile, survival, resistance and persistence in the face of tremendous adversities. Those stories remain unrecorded, unheard and unknown.

For more than seven decades, indigenous Palestinians have been subjected to an ongoing cultural genocide. They continue to experience a forced odyssey that has been characterized by repeated cycles catastrophic displacement, debilitating deprivation, tenacious resistance and remarkable personal and cultural resilience. Palestinians have been rendered into an absence in their native homeland and have become forgotten survivors. In the worldview of many, they are no longer regarded as a people, but as disparate refugee communities. The continuity of their stories ensures their presence and survival.

Anticipated release: TBA.
SittingCrow Productions

For further information regarding this film, please contact John Halaka at [email protected] or call 619-260-4107.