Closing Take One Action Film Festival NAILA AND THE UPRISING is the story of one woman’s life growing up in occupied Palestine and how despite Israeli occupation and the failure of multiple rebellions she stays strong and never loses her nerve.
Julia Bacha, an experienced documentarian, has dealt with the Palestinian situation before in her 2009 award-winning documentary BUDRUS. Where NAILA AND THE UPRISING differs is in its focus on the life of Naila and the inspiring women who helped initiate the first Intifada, a movement which sought to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and to restore the rights of the Palestinian people.
A mixture of animation and archive footage serve to bring the audience closer to the protagonist by showing us intimate moments from Naila’s life. Expertly animated scenes take us through some of the more horrific moments of violence, lessening their impact, the worst of things often disguised by a drawn metaphor. Instead of painting the picture of a victim, Naila is framed by her own actions rather than actions against her. The drawings could be of anybody, they are simple featureless figures, which encourages the viewer to step into Naila’s shoes. The animated scenes illustrate tales Naila relates to us in interviews throughout the film.
Bacha could easily have painted another history full of male agents, but instead she chooses to focus on the women of Palestine. Naila, who suffers many wrongs at the hands of the Israeli state, is but one of the many strong women we encounter. In the face of much adversity, at home and abroad, Naila and her contemporaries demonstrate their resilience. They are not just durable – the women bring together various factions of Palestinian politics to end the occupation, in the absence of many men who have been exiled or martyred, demonstrating the power of collaboration.
Instead of painting the picture of a victim, Naila is framed by her own actions rather than actions against her.
The documentary is a snapshot; it is not a complete exploration of the situation in Palestine. It does not start at the beginning, nor does it finish at the end. This is due, in part to the fact that the story is not over, the struggle for Palestinian liberation goes on.
Aside from its extremely gripping politically charged narrative, the film is an expertly woven tapestry of footage and animation. Accompanied by the sounds of bass, cello, violin and clarinet, composed by Tristan Capacchione we have all the materials for an epic, albeit a short one, it’s run-time a mere 76 minutes. So much biography is packed into such a short space of time, so many characters met along the way that when it ends it comes as a surprise, as if it is incomplete.
Too much time is devoted to the early life of our protagonist and some scenes are given much more weight than others. This is particularly frustrating towards the end when Naila’s story just peters out, having spent so long on her early life and her involvement with the Intifada there is no time left for an elaboration of what followed. So when it finishes feeling incomplete that’s because it is. Having said that, the festival Take One Action puts on is pitched to encourage action, to further the story. In that regard, NAILA AND THE UPRISING is a powerful end to an inspiring film festival.