Mahdi Fleifel’s personal reflection on life in a Palestinian refugee camp debuted at Toronto in 2012. It went on to screen at Berlin, Abu Dhabi, CPH:DOX, BAFICI, Reykjavik Shorts & Docs, and DOC NYC, where it won a jury award.
Infused with surprising humor and nostalgia in equal parts, Fleifel’s film follows the director as he returns to Ain el-Helweh, the refugee camp in southern Lebanon where he grew up. Though his immediate family left this setting long ago for Europe, other relatives remain, providing Fleifel with a contemporary link that balances out his memories. The latter are aided by the cogent use of an archive of family home video footage shot by his father, providing a clear sense of the simultaneous passage of time yet a paradoxical stasis, reflecting the limbo of Ain el-Helweh – a camp which, when established in 1948, was surely not meant to become its inhabitants permanent homes – not to mention that of their descendants, generations later. Fleifel’s film succeeds in humanizing the refugee experience, while it reminds the viewer that the political is also personal in a way that is too rarely seen in works related to the Israel/Palestine conflict.