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Images Festival Pushes Boundaries

Written by Pablo de Ocampo


The always-innovative Images Festival storms 25 venues  across the GTA beginning Thursday with a 10-day blizzard of film screenings, groundbreaking live performances and eye-popping media art installations. We pressed festival Artistic Director Pablo de Ocampo for his curatorial pick of the crop, which turns out to be director Kamal Aljafaris film Port of Memory; the film screens April 1 at 7 pm at the Bloor Cinema. Comment to win festival prize packs, details below.

While its always impossible to make a single pick from an entire festival, I think a good place to start is our opening night gala film, Kamal Aljafaris Port of Memory. Its never easy to decide on an opening night film but Aljafaris work (director is pictured above), provides the perfect introduction for what will unfurl over the rest of the festival: merging documentary and fiction, Port of Memory is a film that, like the Images Festival itself, defies categories and easy definitions.

In Aljafaris 2006 film The Roof (which won the best international video award at the 2007 Images Festival), theres a key scene in which the artist and a friend are driving along the West Bank separation barrier. Though their conversation touches on the divisions between Palestinians and Israelis, the scene never devolves into that all-too-familiar image of a heated argument between people at a security

checkpoint trying to get from point A to point B. They just drive. And as they drive, we see the wall passing through the windows of the vehicle; the biggest conflict arises when the car comes upon a truck parked too close to the barrier and a soldier helps guide them through the narrow opening.

This scene is indicative of what I find most striking about Aljafaris films: although theyre created in the midst of a complex and heated political environment, his work is quietly restrained and his narratives  as potent as they may be  never hit the viewer over the head, rather the director favours an indirect mode of address. Aljafaris stories show, rather than tell.

Both The Roof and Port of Memory focus on the story of Aljafaris family and home in the cities of Jaffa and Ramle. As Palestinians living in Palestinian neighborhoods within Israel, the characters are in a constant state of limbo; their day-to-day lives are played out on camera  visiting a lawyer, looking for a new home, watching a nearby house be demolished, or simply walking the streets of their neighborhoods. The viewer is never quite sure if the scenes are actually happening or being re-enacted, which in the end, doesnt really matter, anyway. True or false, Aljafaris characters frame an analysis of the disorder and disarray that has resulted from the abandonment and decay of their neighborhoods.