directed by Juliano Mer Khamis and Danniel Danniel
Arna Mer Khamis was a legendary activist against the Israeli Occupation. Born into a Jewish family, she married a Palestinian Arab and spent her life campaigning for justice and human rights in her homeland. Arna founded an alternative education system for Palestinian children whose lives had been disrupted by Israeli occupation. In the Jenin refugee camp, Arna opened a theatre group where she taught the children to express anger, bitterness and fear through acting and art. The children slowly grew to trust and to love Arna: “She’s like my mother,” says one child. “She helps us. She saved us from the streets.” Arna’s son, Juliano Mer Khamis, was a director at the theater group and filmed his mother and the children rehearsing and performing over a six year period. When Arna died of cancer in 1995, the theater group struggled to continue for another two years but ultimately did not survive.
Five years after Arna’s death, Juliano, now one of the region’s leading actors, returns to the camp to discover what happened to “Arna’s Children.” Shifting back and forth in time, Mer Khamis’s film juxtaposes the sweet-faced young boys with the militants and martyrs they become. “Arna’s Children” reveals the tragedy and horror of young lives trapped by the circumstances of occupation.
A Word from the Director
“Yousef committed a suicide attack in 2001. Ashraf was killed in the battle of Jenin. Ala leads a resistance group. I returned to the ruins of Jenin with my camera, to see what happened to the children I knew and loved…my film tries to tell their stories and to understand their choices.”
– Director, Juliano Mer Khamis
“A must-see documentary. Sure to spark controversy for its straightforward presentation of the Palestinian struggle, [‘Arna’s Children’] limns a devastating group portrait of the legacy of occupation.”
Clip and photos
Arna’s Children official website
The Freedom Theater (Jenin)