“Where is God?” an elderly man desperately wonders when surveying the debris in the Palestinian refugee camp Jenin.
The film, directed and co-produced by Palestinian actor and director Mohammed Bakri, includes testimony from Jenin residents after the Israeli occupation forces’ so-called “Defensive Wall” operation, during which the city and camp were the scenes of fierce fighting. The operation ended with Jenin flattened and scores of Palestinians dead. Palestinians as well as numerous human rights groups accused Israel of committing war crimes in the April 2002 attack on the refugee camp. Jenin Jenin shows the extent to which the prolonged oppression and terror has affected the state of mind of the Palestinian inhabitants of Jenin.
Bitterness and grief are the prevailing feelings among th majority of the population. Many have lost loved ones or are still searching for victims and furniture among the debris. A little girl, who does not seem to be much older than twelve, tells her story but knows no fear. The ongoing violence in her day-to-day life only nourishes her feelings of hatred and the urge to take revenge. She tells what she would do to Prime Minister Sharon if he visited the camp and she shouts that the Palestinians will never give up the struggle. They will keep on producing children, who can continue the fight against injustice.
The sad question forces itself on the spectator. What will become of a country, a people when its children are confronted with war and violence from a very early age?
Banned in Israel, Jenin Jenin is dedicated to Iyad Samudi, the producer of the film, who returned home to Yamun after the shooting of the film was completed. On June 23, as Israeli forces besieged Yamun, Samudi was shot and killed as he was leaving a “military-closed area” with three friends.
Since You Left:
Palestinian actor Mohammad Bakri has been a popular figure in both Israeli and Palestinian cinema of the past three decades. His long list of film credits includes Hannah K. (1983),Beyond the Walls (1984), Cup Final (1991), Tale of the Three Jewels (1995), The Milky Way(1997) and Private (2004).
With his second directorial effort, Since You Left, Bakri visits the grave of his mentor, Emil Habibi, a prominent Palestinian author and politician. In this intimate setting, Bakri attempts to summarize for Habibi some of the personal and political transformations that have occurred in Israel and Palestine since the author’s death.
The greater part of the narrative is concerned with the two events which shattered Bakri’s life in the years after his mentor’s passing. The first is his nephew’s involvement in an attack on a public bus in the city of Meiron which left 9 Israelis dead, and the subsequent backlash against the entire Bakri family. The second is the uproar caused by Bakri’s 2002 documentary film,Jenin Jenin, which was banned in Israel for two years upon its release. Rich in archival footage and personal film clips, Since You Left is a poignant, poetic and deeply personal letter to a departed friend and fellow artist.