16 May 2021

Rashid Masharawi

Palestinian, Filmmaker, Human

Looking back

I can clearly see Rashid's gaze, shining as always. His eyes, two lakes of dark honey, the more you look at them, the more they catch you. They keep so many stories that their depth is reflected without the need or expectation of it. The more you know about its depth, the scarier it will be and the more you'll love it. The eyes that have learned to look at the world without losing sight of the light that wants to shine and scream even in the darkest of nights.

I can also remember how he smiles and drinks coffee. Cap or hat always covers his wise head and perfectly complements Montmartre's bohemian atmosphere, the cinema's ambience, and the aroma of coffee.

We were in the yard, surrounded by flowers, listening to the bees whispering in the honeycombs of the tangled garden next to our building. Spring 2020 was beginning in Paris, and we shared our thoughts about this new world in which we were still getting used to living from our homes, and without really knowing how and when we might be able to leave them.

“Rashid, what do you see is going on?," I asked.

"I see this from two perspectives. On the one hand, for 30 years or more, I have been working nonstop, planing shoots, traveling the world... I was supposed to be in Bethlehem, Palestine, in June, to continue my work. So this confinement should be a great deal of drama for me, right? But I don't feel that at all... Maybe it's time to rethink, to uncover new things, to reconsider our plans..."

When we discussed that, I was hoping that all this would be a real reset that would take us to the next level in our lives and the world.

"There is another side, which is very meaningful to me," he continued, “I am Palestinian, from Gaza. I was born in a refugee camp in Gaza. Over the course of my life, I was on different wars and I have participated in demonstrating and doing many things, whether as a journalist, filmmaker, or child."

A pause, surrounded by the birds’ songs, a sip of coffee and one more drag on the cigarette.

“Since I was four years old, I see myself under Israeli military occupation, and I always thought that the world is not fair, the world treats us badly… I was always wondering something that perhaps may now come to some people's thoughts...

« Why do they have to make us be and live like this? »

He echoed that question between the walls of the small yarn and a cold sensation ran through the air. No one knew how to answer ... Today, I still don't know...

Rashid continued smiling painfully despite everything. His eyes glowed with fire and he rekindled the mood.

"Hey, Rashid, what does 'pressure' mean to you?” I said.

“I would say that in a situation where I can't do anything to change it or make it better, I have no pressure. I can feel pressure when I know I could do something and I didn't. [...] For example, we are sitting here today and we don't know when this is going to end. So I have no problem if it goes on for another month, I'm ready," he laughed as we both laughed.

"So based on what you're saying, there's no pressure because there's no end? It's like living a life without death, without end, ” Theodoros said.

“Yes, I understand what you say. I think the pressure exists when you live in a dilemma, like Palestine, for example. There, no one knows when the conflict is going to end, and the pressure comes from the fact that you don't know something and you need to know it. People usually want to know things. [...] Maybe some don't. Many people don' t deal with the pressure that will come later. "

Each one of us nodded, understanding perfectly what that last phrase meant: a vast unknown cluster was exploding again, painfully and bloodily, just like it did before.

"Humans are a remarkable survival machine," Rashid continued. “There are people who spend thirty years in jail, in a room, and they are still alive. There are people who lose their legs, their eyes, or whatever, and carry on with their lives. In order to move on, the body, perhaps the mind, develops defences.

"What are the similarities between the war in Palestine and Corona's war?", we asked.

"Somehow, I wanted people to feel how it feels, how it is to be alone and to have your freedom taken away by others. Feeling that it is not allowed to do this or that, that you cannot travel, move…"

« Feeling that it isn't allowed to be, that it isn't allowed to live.

"On the surface, it might seem like revenge... but you can trust me that deep inside, it isn't, " his eyes full of purity spoke the truth.

With an ironic tone and half laughing, he added, “Now all the great countries have lowered their planes from the sky. But, in Palestine, we don't have planes. We had an airport in Gaza, but they bombed it."

Maybe all of this has given us a kind understanding of how they have felt for so long. You understand something when you feel the others, you are a participant, we are closer. When someone feels it and says “they are”, this person is actually saying “we are”. Perhaps...

Rashid started a new story: “The other day I saw a conversation between a father and his son in Gaza. I was very upset to hear that, but at the same time I laughed at the innocence of that eight year old boy. All of this was happening at a time when everyone was talking about the global pandemic but in Gaza there were approximately 7 infected from a 2 million population.

The boy asked his father, "What is that about Corona? Everyone is talking about Corona and Corona? What is that, dad?

His father replied, “Wow! Its a big problem. They have locked up every country and city in the world."

And the child replied, "Like us?"

The father was still shocked by the seriousness of the matter, “What are you saying? People are worried about food, medicine, their future! ”.

Finally the child said, "But ...

« We have been in Corona for many years. Nobody knows, but that is what we are living! »

We laugh, at the paradox of reality.

"Is there someone to help Palestine?,” I asked.

“There is always help. Although...

« it is not considered help since it assumes that Palestine cannot be freed. »

And that they can only provide food, medicine, and sports facilities. Only "to make them feel better." This is not helpful. We need to be free, independent, and then we can help each other. However, this entire situation is like putting water up to your nose."

"What does Palestine need?,” we asked.

Easily he said, "Don't give me a fish to eat, teach me how to fish, and then I'll help myself get it."

We are still there, sitting. The sun was rising more and more but the birds did not stop talking to us. We started sharing words about cinema, and what had led Rashid to “choose it for the rest of his life”, what was the most powerful thing about being able to make films and documentaries and how he understood it.

“One of my powers as a filmmaker, as a Palestinian, is dealing with a world that doesn't really have the information about what's going on. [...] Cinema and art are vehicles to convey stories that speak about humans, about life, about what all this is for everyone, including Palestine. In addition, cinema and movies protect memory. We have a really tough fight with the Israelis over the history of the place…”

Cinema is to talk about Palestine, to tell the world that they are a nation, a society. They have their own culture, history, art, music, language, colors, gastronomy ... And Rashid came to make it eternal with his work.

“The cinema happens when you tell a story about a father and his daughter in a refugee camp in Palestine, and every man in the world will also see his daughter in that girl. This is cinema for me…"

« Seeing myself, as another human being… This means a lot… »

Lunchtime was approaching and the conversation was ending, evidencing something that resounded as loudly at that moment as it continues to resonate now.

“Now we realize, more than ever, that we live in society and that we need each other. That we are all one body. And if this body becomes ill, we need to treat it as a whole, each of the humans that make it up. Including those who are seated in Gaza right now. We have suddenly become the same!", he said ironically, "How does this affect the Palestinians? And the same applies for Yemen, Iraq, Syria…"

We all nodded, laughing at the funny way he told it, but feeling deep frustration at such plausible satire.

"I have known what has happened in Palestine since I was born ... It would be nice if we could be true equals after Corona without being compromised by a virus. Furthermore, maybe we can catch all the viruses that have been around since we were born, but which we haven't seen because they haven't bitten us yet. We didn’t realize them until a huge virus arrived, shook the world and said:

« Hey! Come back. Settle down. Life could change! »

Perhaps it has been too long since viruses have been biting, that they are sinking their fangs into the deepest part of the lives of so many souls ... And it is too long now to keep thinking that something "could change" to start making that change true.

Thank you, Rashid.
Free Palestine.

Rashid Masharawi - MASHARAWI FILMS (Vimeo)

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