in desolation, life despite everything


There are documentary gestures more imperious than others and which, at times, have hung by a thread: inhabitant of Yarmouk, in the suburbs of Damascus (Syria), then the largest Palestinian refugee camp in the world, Abdallah Al -Khatib is given a camera by a friend who tries to escape – he will be tortured to death by the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. This death obliges him: Al-Khatib continues the gesture of his comrade who filmed the daily life of Yarmouk then besieged by the armed forces of the country. A state of siege that will last from 2013 to 2015, before the Islamic State organization took control of the camp. In 2018, Russian planes and the Syrian army dealt the final blow and destroyed 80% of the camp – its inhabitants were then scattered around the world.

Now a refugee with his mother in Germany, the young filmmaker ordered the images collected during the state of siege, transforming a distant and complex geopolitical reality into a poetic, embodied and infinitely painful experience. Impossible not to come out of Little Palestine with a strange feeling of guilt of the Western spectator living against a background of peace and opulence and who can afford the luxury of enjoying a desperate reality on a cinema screen.

“Ritual of survival”

But if the film is an infinitely precious document, it does not have the finery of a journalistic gesture or a humanitarian spot aimed at raising awareness among its audience but those of an artistic form that seeks to restore the texture of time for whom saw the absurdity of the state of siege – being a matter of time, Little Palestine is therefore, necessarily, a cinema affair.

Both victim and witness, Al-Khatib wanders the streets of Yarmouk, looking for gestures and faces, filming the daily lives of residents who will soon be deprived of water, electricity, medicine and food. Attentive to the tiniest details, available at random, the filmmaker grasps the way in which these deprivations completely modify the relationship to time of the inhabitants of Yarmouk, prisoners of endless days, of boredom and hunger which rule each hour and each body. New gestures then appear: an old man who tries to collect the last drop of coffee from the bottom of his glass, the child who picks edible weeds, the cactus transformed into soup, the long walks towards nothing that become a “Survival ritual” and the only way to occupy his days.

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