CINEMA JENIN: Bianca Jagger says cinema reopening offers Palestinians hope 6Aug10 August 6, 2010

Haaretz -  6 August 2010

Social and human rights advocate Bianca Jagger arrived in the region on Thursday to participate in the reopening ceremony of Cinema Jenin – a cinema chain that had been open in Jenin since the 1960s and closed down with the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987.

The cinema was built by dozens of Palestinian and foreign volunteers and funded by about $650,000, most from the German and Palestinian governments and Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. The complex includes a 350-seat movie house, an outdoor cinema in the adjacent garden, a cafe, a guest house, a film library and a dubbing studio.

Waters sent a video greeting for the opening while Jagger was in town to attend. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad cut the ribbon to open the cinema.

Jagger, the ex-wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger and founder and chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, said she visited Jenin in 2002, at the height of Israeli-Palestinian violence and was “shocked” by the destruction at the time.

“It is for me a pleasure to see that there’s now reason for hope, for a future for Palestinians here,” Jagger said at a press conference ahead of the opening.

The project of reopening the cinema was initially conceived by German filmmaker Marcus Vetter who made a documentary “Heart of Jenin” about a Palestinian man who decided to donate his 12-year-old son’s organs to Jewish children after he was shot by Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

Ismail Khatib’ son Ahmed was shot dead in 2005 in Jenin after soldiers mistook his toy gun for a real weapon.

Jagger said she was touched by Khatib’s story and she thought the opening of the cinema in Jenin was extremely important for the people of Jenin as it would open them up to culture, justice and education.

The film “Heart of Jenin,” which won the 2010 German Film Prize for best documentary and has been nominated for an Emmy, was the first film shown in the cinema on Thursday.

Ismail Khatib, 46, said the local showing of the movie commemorating his son is an emotional occasion. “It shows that Ahmed is still living among the children, and that our sacrifice has not gone in vain,” said Khatib, who has five surviving children.

Movie houses are rare in the West Bank, and the cinema marks another milestone in the transformation of Jenin from a hub for Palestinian gunmen to a bustling town of 40,000 with a growing economy.

A ticket at the Jenin cinema will cost 10 shekels ($2.60), the price of half a pack of cigarettes, and organizers say separate seating for men and women is available, if requested, to reflect local traditions. Fakhri Hamad, who will operate the cinema, said he will try to show quality films as well as audience requests for popular entertainment. He also said some Israeli films would be shown, with an emphasis on those focusing on Palestinians.

Vetter hopes to expand the project. Next year, he plans to open a film school in Jenin and launch the West Bank’s first international film festival. Vetter’s latest documentary, about rebuilding the Jenin cinema, would likely open the festival, he said.

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