cinema Palestino

Sheffield's 8th Palestinian Film Season Nov 2016

Flying high with Flying Paper


It will be fantastic to welcome Nitin Sawney and Roger Hill’s film , Flying Paper, to cinemaPalestino.

According to Sawhney, this film is important because it’s purely told through children’s voices. “Those kids live under threat, yet they’re the most hilarious, charming kids you’ll ever meet,’’ the co-director adds.

Once upon a time Sawnhey was spoken in the same phrase as Beyond Skin, his best selling CD from 1999. In 2008 he progressed to going beyond walls by co-founding the initiative Voices Beyond Walls (VBW) which runs digital storytelling workshops with Palestinian youth in refugee camps, in the West Bank.

World record kite flying in Gaza

Kite flying in Gaza to break the world record for numbers of kites flying at the same time in 2009

In winter 2009, Nitin Sawhney and documentary filmmaker Roger Hill joined forces to consider making a film different in style to most documentaries on Palestine. Having heard about the kite festival to attempt a world record – which was broken again the following year – they set about choosing trainees from the youth media program they had set up VBW to help film it.

They also looked for good kite makers as potential characters profiling the youth beforeand with the help of the UN, they found a family in Seifa. Kite maker Musa, young charismatic leader, and his sister Widad, witty and sarcastic, are primary characters. The grandfather, Abu Ziad, village governor, also appears in the film to highlight the connection between his generation and the youth through the kite making tradition.

Abeer, 19, leader among the young graduates from VBW program, is narrator and co-producer. “I enjoyed playing both roles,” she says. “I wanted to do make an impact through this film.’’ Abeer was fully involved in the making of Flying Paper, providing contextual information, conducting interviews, filming, giving feedback. “Abeer really helped to carry the film along. She has been vital on camera and behind the scenes,” Hill observes.

Photographer Anne Paq worked with Abeer developing a voice narration, shooting additional segments with her and about daily life in Gaza. Based in the West Bank and often travelling to Gaza, Paq organized film showings, contributed with regular feedback, and facilitated sharing feedback from the Palestinian youth. Video editor Ahmed Elabd and Emmy award winning editor Rafael Parra took Flying Paper through its final cut. Meanwhile Nitin Sawhney, based in London, contributed with original music throughout the film.

Far from being ignored in the film, the general situation in Gaza serves as background for the story. “The film shows many positive things about Gaza, but doesn’t remove the bigger picture,” the photographer clarifies.

The tone of Flying Paper is playful and uplifting. “For a documentary coming out of Gaza, the fact that it keeps you laughing, and breaks your heart, is amazing,” Sawhney notes.

Hill thoroughly enjoyed telling a small story within the larger social-political context, with the intention to attract larger audiences who can learn about life in Gaza through the story.

Paq thinks a serious, heavy documentary doesn’t quite reach the public. “If you have a story offering a different dimension, you can touch people in a much stronger way,’’ she argues.

Hasan shares similar thoughts. “This film throws a different line on a very over-politicized situation,” she says. “Its essence is incredibly simple, beautiful, and universal.”

Flying Paper captures children’s creative resilience through the kite culture. Sawhney believes the poetics of kites is an easily accessible metaphor for Gazan children. A struggle, in the act of making, and a sense of freedom, in the act of flying.

On the day of the kite festival, children turned up on the beach, ready to fly over 7,000 kites at once. “All those kids looking happy and proud of their achievement send a powerful message to the world,” Paq reflects.

Among the many beautiful scenes, Paq points to one where Musa finds his kite broken, and repairs it. “It’s a strong metaphor for life in Gaza, where Palestinians rebuild their lives again,” she says.

Abeer invites everyone to watch Flying Paper: “We wanted to show the truth in a simple way, through a small story.’’

‘’I hope the film sends a humanizing message that children in Gaza are like all children in the world,” says Hill.


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