16 May 2021
Palestinian, Filmmaker, Human
- Filmmaker — Rashid Masharawi
- Text — Violeta Dai
Remembering that day,
I perfectly 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 the depth is reflected without wanting it, without expecting it. A depth, that the more you know, the more scary and the more you fall in love with. Eyes that have learned to look at the world without forgetting the light that wants to shine and scream even in the darkest nightmare.
I also see, from my memory, how he smiles and drinks coffee. His wise head is always covered by a cap or hat that perfectly complements Montmartre's bohemian atmosphere, cinema’s world and coffee’ smell.
Sitting on the yard, surrounded by flowers and listening to the bees whispering in the honeycombs from the tangled garden that breathes right next to our building. Spring 2020 was beginning in Paris, and we shared points of view about this new world in which we were still learning to live from our homes, and without really knowing how and when we were going to be able to get out of them.
“Rashid, how do you see what's going on?," I asked.
“You know, for me this has two points of view," he replied after taking a drag on his cigarette. “On one side, for 30 years or more, I have been in action, nonstop. All day doing things, planning and managing shoots, flying around the world... And when I was preparing my next film, this Corona’ closure happened."
We listened to him, patiently, breathing his story.
"Supposedly, I should be in Palestine in June, in Bethlehem, to continue with my work plan. So this confinement should be a huge drama for me, right? But I don't feel that way… Maybe it's time to stop and rethink, to discover new things, to change our mind…”
While we were talking and thinking about that, I felt that, actually, all this was happening for us to realize something. To do a kind of reset that would put us on the next level of life and the world.
"There is also another side, which is very important to me," he continued. “I am Palestinian, from Gaza. I was born in a refugee camp in Gaza. And during my life, I have been participating, in my own way, as a journalist, filmmaker or as a child to demonstrate and do many things”. We smile, because what we all know is that Rashid will always be a child.
A pause, surrounded by the birds’ songs, a sip of coffee and one more drag on the cigarette.
“Since I was four or five years old, when the memories start to surface in my mind, I see myself under Israeli military occupation. I was in different wars, I was in the intifada, participating in my own way ... And during all this time, I always thought that the world is not fair, the world treats us badly… I was always wondering 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...
Even with everything, Rashid would not stop smiling and his eyes full of fire and life revived the atmosphere.
Remembering Rashid talking about it now fondly evokes images of "Haifa", one of his films. I remember the three of us talking about all this, sharing visions and values between stories, good memories and emotions.
"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 somehow, if they say it goes on for another month, I have no problem, I'm ready”, he laughed, we 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 want to know it. People usually want to know things. [...] Maybe some don't. Probably, some don’t want to deal with the pressure that will come later. "
We all looked at each other and nodded, understanding perfectly what that last phrase was referring to, which was the potentiality of a great unknown cluster that today explodes again, painfully and bloody, just as it originated.
"Humans are a perfect survival machine," Rashid continued. “There are people who spend twenty or thirty years in jail, in a room, and they are still alive. There are people who lose their legs, their eyes, or whatever, and go on with their lives. The body, perhaps the mind, develops protections for the human being to move on”.
“What is there in common between the war in Palestine and the "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 is not allowed to be yourself, that it is not allowed to live. Maybe it might sound like revenge… but I promise that deep down inside of me, it isn't,“ his eyes full of purity spoke the truth.
With an ironic tone and half laughing at the paradox of the situation, he added: “now all the great countries have lowered their planes from the sky. There are no planes, but we in Palestine don't have planes. We had an airport in Gaza, but they bombed it. "
Perhaps all this situation has been given to know, somehow, in our own skin, how they felt for so long. Perhaps ... What is clear is that the world has felt it. And when you feel something, you understand it, you are a participant, we are closer. When someone feels it and says “they are”, this person is actually saying “we are”.
Rashid started a new story: “The other day I saw a conversation between a father and his son in Gaza. I was very sad to hear that, but at the same time I laughed at the innocence of that eight or nine 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 talking about Corona and Corona? What is that, dad? And his father replied: “Wow! Its a big problem! The world is separate, they have locked up each country and each city ”. 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 actually, it is what we are living!”, "
We laugh, once again, at the paradox of reality.
"Is there someone to help Palestine?,” I asked.
“There is always help, but it is not help because they start from the point that they cannot liberate Palestine, and that they can only give food, medicine, build sports centers or whatever "to make them feel better." This is not helping. We need to be free, independent, and then we can help each other. But this whole situation is like keeping you with water up to your nose”.
"What does Palestine need?,” we asked.
And, smiling, he replied:« 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 talking 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 understand it.
“One of the powers as filmmaker, as a Palestinian, is dealing with a world that doesn't really have the information about what's going on, that doesn't know what's behind the next door. [...] 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, that they have their own culture, history, art, music, language, colors, gastronomy ... And, of course, all these things fit together in a film, in a documentary. And Rashid came to make it possible.
“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…,” he explained while holding the cup of coffee and the cigar with the same hand.
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. Even those who are sitting there in Gaza now, ” he pointed out between irony.« We have suddenly become the same! »
"Suddenly, all human beings have become the same. What is this for the Palestinians? And the same goes 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 ... I only wish that, after the Corona, we are truly equal human beings, and that we continue to be the same without a virus involved. And, also, hopefully we can catch all the viruses that exist since we were born and we have not seen because they hadn’t bitten yet. We didn’t realize them until a huge virus arrived, shook the world and said:
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.