By Katya Spiers, Film and TV Digital Editor
The Bristol Palestine Film Festival has unveiled a mural on Jamaica Street to commemorate the festival’s tenth anniversary, which will take place online this year from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 December.
The mural was designed by Taqi Spateen, a Bethlehem-based artist whose mural of George Floyd on the Israeli West Bank Barrier made global headlines earlier this year.
Spateen has worked in collaboration with the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft and volunteers made up of UWE Fine Art students, who realised the design due to current travel restrictions, which prevented Spateen from making the trip to Bristol.
It is the artist’s first time handing the reins over to a team of people to materialise one of his ideas. When asked about this, Spateen explained: ‘The idea should go out and spread even if someone else implements it, it indicates the speed of global communication through art, bringing distances closer despite difficult details related to travel issues and visas.
‘In the end we got a great result with a different artistic taste.’
The mural features four prominent figures of contemporary Palestinian film: Annemarie Jacir, the first Palestinian woman to direct a feature-length film; Muayad Alayan (The Reports on Sarah and Saleem (2018)); Najwa Najjar (Pomegranates and Myrrh (2008)) and Mohammad Bakri, whose film Jenin, Jenin sparked controversy after its release in 2002 because of its account of the Battle of Jenin.
Palestinian people are at the very core of Spateen’s mural. He feels that as an artist he has an ‘artistic responsibility towards his country.’
When asked about the Arabic calligraphy on his mural, Spateen said that: ‘Usually, people write something in English and translate it into Arabic, but here the Arabic is Arabic, and the English is different.’
The Arabic at the bottom of the mural reads ‘our life is like a film.’ The artist explained how ‘In Palestine, you just walk through the streets and you see scenes from films everywhere,’ a romantic image that also carries a more sinister dual meaning, reflected in the images of watchtowers and surveillance cameras which also populate the mural.
The expression also refers to the cameras that were installed in the country after the displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians during the Nakba in 1948. As the artist describes, ‘Our film started in 1948 and it hasn’t ended yet.’
The BPFF mural makes a very welcome addition to the vibrant Stokes Croft, whose spark has been dulled slightly since its clubs and pubs have made the adjustment to life under coronavirus restrictions.
At a time when Bristolians are confined to spending days on end at home, the BPFF’s mural is a beacon of colour, hope and community spirit that brings people together despite the current lockdown.
Spateen described that ‘at a time of idle, the artist comes and creates hope in the middle of the street. It’s something we have to do, in solidarity with the issues of people on earth. Now is the time to revive activities and the arts around the world.’
Featured: Bristol Palestine Film Festival / Alix Hughes
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