By Laura Al Bast
BU News Service
On Friday night, the Remis Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts was filled with Boston residents anticipating the dimming lights and opening credits of the film “Ghost Hunting.”
The documentary film recreates scenes of torture and imprisonment under the Israeli occupation. Formerly imprisoned men built a replica set of their prison cells on screen and re-enacted their own experiences through confinement and interrogations.
“The thing that struck me the most about the film is how even when people are completely constricted, confined, with no freedom whatsoever, they find a way to annoy their tormentors and assert their humanity and their right to have a voice,” said 71-year-old Don Gurewitz, a photographer and political activist.
“Ghost Hunting” kicked off the 11th Boston Palestine Film Festival, co-presented with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Running until this Sunday, the festival showcases 26 feature films from around the world, highlighting the Palestinian narrative in action.
Michael Maria, an executive committee member and film programmer, said that the organizers are a group of passionate individuals who volunteer their time and are dedicated to representing Palestinian voices in a positive way.
“We’re much more than that, and we want to be able to bring positive stories to counteract these stereotypes, and have [Palestinians] represent themselves,” Maria said. “Film can really suck you in and open your eyes quickly in ways many other mediums can’t. Some really powerful films make people realize ‘there’s so much I don’t know that I still have to learn.’”
The stories being told through the film festival are based on real people and their everyday lives, said executive committee member Rana Akleh.
“Film has influence,” Akleh said. “It’s important to show that we’re human, too.”
This year, attendees will be able to vote for films they watch and like as part of the “Audience Awards.”
Maria said that after years of having the audience vote through slips of paper, the new system will help keep the audience engaged and involved online.
“It helps to feature a lot of these films and advertise that the BPFF’s Audience Award was given to X, Y, or Z,” Maria said. “So it really is mutually beneficial to the film, the director, the festival and the audience.”
Back in 2006, a group of activists from different career sectors in Boston came together in an effort to bring in a Palestinian arts exhibition. Their initiative was difficult to pursue given the sensitive political identity the exhibition, entitled “Made in Palestine.”
One of the festival founders, Katherine Hanna, 59, who was a member of the organizing team for 10 years, said the group decided to change their focus from hosting an exhibition and planned to launch a film festival instead.
“We came to the MFA and asked for their support and the film curator at the time was extremely supportive,” Hanna said. “[The film festival] is going full steam ahead and there’s a lot of great people working on it.”