Aqabat-Jaber is one of the sixty Palestinian refugee camps built in the Middle East by the UN at the beginning of the 1950s. Filmed in 1987, a few months before the Intifada, this film tells the story of a disinherited generation brought up in the nostalgia of places they never knew and which no longer exist. The story of a temporary solution that became a permanent way of life.
Aqabat-Jaber is one of the sixty Palestinian refugee camps built in the Middle East by the UN at the beginning of the 1950s. It is the biggest camp in the Middle East situated some 3 kilometres south of Jericho. The majority of its 65,000 inhabitants came from those villages in central Palestine that were destroyed in 1948. The 1967 war pushed 95% of that population across the banks of the river Jordan. The traces of war and the effects of erosion by the desert accentuate the contrasts between the abandoned refugees and the huts that they still occupy, and make Aqabat-Jaber look like a ghost town. Filmed in 1987, a few months before the Intifada, this film tells the story of a disinherited generation brought up in the nostalgia of places they never knew and which no longer exist. The story of a temporary solution that became a permanent way of life. This film is about a ghost town, fulfilled by nostalgia and memories.
This film goes beyond politics. It is about country people confined for the last 38 years in refugee camps, about the humiliation of being severed from their land, from their orchards, their villages. Nothing happens in the film because nothing happens in their lives. Endlessly waiting, some still cling to the hope of returning one day to their land. It is not a silent film, it cries out in its simplicity, wrenching the heart. These are human beings ?? So, what...?!
Some refugees welcome the chance to introduce themselves, air their grievances and bemoan their fates ; other scorn the filmmakers. Sivan, ever sympathetic to their conditions, extracts detailed life stories from the displaced persons as he pans the daily life at the camps.
Aqabat-Jaber offers a poetic vision of homelessness a permanent state of mind. Poignancy merges with absurdity, turning the makeshift life into a kind of grotesque purgatory, a sad dreamland.
Aqabat-jaber is a definite highlight. It's a sad and troubling look at a decrepit West Bank refugee camp where Palestinians, many displaced landowners living in exile, talk about their lives and their hopes of regaining their land. For many of these refugees, some there since 1948, the land is a symbol of lost culture and lost self-respect.
Aqabat-Jaber by Eyal Sivan, winner of cinéma du réel 1987, is a very powerful testimony on uprooted people of all origins.
There is, in Eyal Sivan's film, the acute awareness of the camera's gaze in everyone that is filmed.
A movie beyond the politics, since here scorned people are dignified and proud.
Cinéma du Réel, Paris 1987
Festikon, Amsterdam 1988
Festival du Film de Belfort, France 1988
International Film Festival, Oakland 1987
Internationale Filmwoche, Manheim 1988