Nour Alkawaja’s film “Misunderstanding of Palestine” is still a work in progress. But if the raw version she showed at the Arab Women Artists Now festival in London is anything to go by, it’s going to make a big impact.
The movie is a ‘mockumentary’ filmed on the West Bank with a curious mix of real and imaginary characters. Alkawaja admits that a lack of money has limited her access to actors, so she has had to resort to playing the key role herself — a tour guide from a company called ‘Occupied Nation Tourism.’ “I didn’t want to be the ‘face’ of the film,” she says. “It’s just that I didn’t have the money to pay for another actor!” Fortunately, she has a wealth of comedy experience, being a professional clown teacher and actress.
Her character is filmed as she presents various faces of Palestine for a promotional travel video and it’s hilarious. She comes across as an eager but obvious amateur, covering her inexperience with a tendency to blame everyone else. She repeatedly admonishes the crew to shout “Action” to warn her that filming is beginning and stomps off when she loses her temper — whether that’s in the middle of describing a particular feature or mid-interview.
The shortage of funds has meant even her director of photography has been roped in to play a visiting French tourist who is presented as a sort of unwitting trophy to prove that Palestine is still a draw.
But threaded throughout the film — in stark contrast to the comedy — runs a dark vein of sadness. Characters suddenly let down their masks and confide what they really feel; the sense of hopelessness and desperation that comes from living such circumscribed lives.