“Port of Memory”
film by Kamal ALJAFARI
palestinian filmmaker in Berlin
The history of the town of Jaffa, a thriving port city now part of Tel Aviv, provides the background for Aljafaris most recent film, centering on his mothers family at risk of eviction if they cant find proof that the house they have lived in for decades belongs to them. Their predicament is rendered with Aljafaris usual subtlety, as well as deadpan humor and dark wit. This skeletal narrative provides the scaffolding for a portrait of life in what was once a bustling neighborhood that was nearly emptied by fighting during the establishment of the state of Israel, and then suffered decades of official neglect. In the meantime, Jaffa was often used as a location for action adventure movies featuring the likes of Chuck Norris. While these films used the city as a generically exotic location, they have now become, in a neat bit of irony, the source of documentary images of the city as it was.
“The haunting films of Kamal Aljafari mix documentary, fiction and personal memoir to render complex portraits of the Palestinian communities in Ramleh and Jaffa, now part of Israel. While providing a rare look at the everyday lives of Palestinian Israelis, the films are more than simply sociopolitical treatises of often-overlooked communities and neighborhoods in danger of dissolving. Aljafari instead astutely balances fiction and nonfiction to capture the fragile rhythms of lives lived in a kind of permanent displacement and the strange limbo of neighborhoods subtly yet inexorably transforming. Although the Ramleh and Jaffa depicted in Aljafaris films have managed to avoid the raw hardships of life in the occupied territories, they cannot avoid the paradoxes of the occupation itself, filed as they are with lives and buildings frozen in time even as they are part of the Israeli present. Pointedly political, Aljafaris films wonderfully embed their ideology into a cinematic poetry graced by light humor.”
David Pendleton, Harvard Film Archive 2010