Time: 7:00 pm
Venue: THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR
An Exclusive Screening of The New Feature Documentary Open Bethlehem
“One of the most remarkable and moving documentaries I have seen, about this unreported story. The tragedy of the Palestinians encapsulated in the life of one town – Bethlehem. See the film, then go to Bethlehem and see for yourself.” JON SNOW
The screening will be followed by an interview between Leila Sansour and renowned British writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg with Q&A from the audience. The focus of the discussion,”Should we save Bethlehem?“, will explore the dramatic changes taking place in the city today and their implications to the wider region.
About the film
Film director Leila Sansour returns to Bethlehem to make a film about her home town, soon to be encircled by a wall. She left the city as a teenager thinking that Bethlehem was too small and provincial. She never wanted to return but this time she is making an exception. She intends her film to be a tribute to her late father, founder of Bethlehem University, and a man regarded as a hero by his town’s folk. As Bethlehem approaches ruin her decision to flee this sleepy town, taken much to her father’s regret, comes to haunt her. Armed with her camera and a dilapidated family car that keeps breaking down, Leila plans to make an epic film about a legendary town in crisis but just few months into filming her life and the film take an unexpected turn when cousin Carol, Leila’s last relative in town, persuades her to stay to start a campaign to save the city. As the pair launch Open Bethlehem Leila finds herself trapped behind a wall in the very place she so much wanted to leave.
The face of Bethlehem is changing rapidly with potentially detrimental con sequences. Reports predict that if trends continue the Christian community of Bethlehem, a city that provides a model for a multi faith Middle East, may be unsustainable within one generation. Leila’s plan to stay a year stretches to seven, and is only resolved when she realizes that, sometimes, the biggest dreams take flight from the smallest places. ‘Open Bethlehem’ is a story of a homecoming to the world’s most famous little town. The film spans seven momentous years in the life of Bethlehem, revealing a city of astonishing beauty and political strife under occupation. The film draws from 700 hours of original footage and some rare archive material. In fact the making of this film has led to the creation of the largest visual archive of Bethlehem in the world and plans are currently being discussed with University College London (UCL) to turn the collection into a museum. Read more about the film here.
Leila Sansour is an acclaimed Palestinian British film maker from Bethlehem, best known in the UK for her feature documentary Jeremy Hardy versus The Israeli Army. Leila has worked for MBC, Al Jazeera and ITN News and is the founder of OPEN BETHLEHEM, an initiative that works to save the city. She started chronicling the building of the wall in her hometown in 2004, a project which resulted in the gathering of a rare Bethlehem archive, both past and present. Parts of this vast digital collection will be presented on the FILM’S WEBSITE in the coming two years.