“This is a work that can only be seen, not talked about; all that can be said is that it brings cinema to a place beyond the question of fiction, documentary and video art. Not only that; it does so as if no camera were there, or there were a camera without a man the invisibility here is of film itself. “- Sight and Sound Magazine. Kamal Aljafari is a Palestinian documentary filmmaker whose work gives voice to Palestinians living under occupation. This summer his work was celebrated by the Beirut Arts Centre in an exhibition entitled ‘After Cinema’. The exhibition examined the use of film to explore what might otherwise become inaccessible histories, a theme that aptly describes Aljafari’s content and style of filmmaking.
His films blend fiction and personal memoir creating complex narratives based on the everyday experiences of the Palestinian communities in Ramleh and Jaffa. In The Roof, Aljafari encapsulates Jaffa’s tumultuous history. He gives definition and place to the current Israeli occupation, while gently hinting at its impermanence. Port of Memory, Aljafari’s most recent film centres on his mother’s family who are at risk of eviction if they do not prove that the house they have lived in for decades belongs to them. The often motionless camera offers a psychological portrait of the imminent threat of eviction against the backdrop of the conflict, encroachment and construction of a rebel state.
Aljafari uses documentary in a very authentic way. Although the medium is often filled with formality and used to record events as an outsider looking in, Aljafari skilfully employs similar tactics, but through his artistry and subtlety, manages to present reality from the standpoint of the invisible other.
There is a caring, nurturing nature to his work which creates a stark alternative for a people whose situation although watched globally remain unseen. And there is further irony. The port city of Jaffa, famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah and Solomon, was once a common location for filming action movies, something that Aljafari captures with dark humour in his films as he questions the boundaries between reality and fiction.