“Where is Palestine?”, a film directed by Nathan Driskell, a media production specialist in the Learning Studio, premiers Thursday night at the Paramount Theatre.
The 24-minute documentary highlights the stories of Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel, and discusses the reality of home demolitions by the Israeli Defense Forces in Area C of the Occupied West Bank.
What they envisioned originally was started out as a series, turned into bigger project that involved all of the threads of the story teased in the initial interviews.
Driskell said he got the invitation only a month in advance from Timothy Palmer, the producer.
“About halfway through the trip we started to understand better what story we were telling,” Driskell said. “It became a people-driven story about what it means to be a Palestinian. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. No two people we interviewed were the same.
“The film brought into perspective a people group who have often been vilified in media and popular perception. It’s really beautiful. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Rafat Shomali was the fixer in the West Bank, and helped the team find connections. He traveled from the West Bank for the premiere of the show – his first time in Texas. Shomali has lived in the West Bank near the Bethlehem area since 1994.
As an established tour guide, Shomali has given tours to heads of state such as the prime minister of Japan.
“When we went, we were stepping into his world,” Driskell said. “He was our guide, one of the two major people who helped us in the West Bank who really helped us get everything together. We’re really glad to have him here. It’s going to be a really special night.”
Driskell said he enjoyed experiencing something outside of his own world. Though he had never been to the Holy Land or Middle East, and had never met a Palestinian, he said it was the film he needed to see.
“I grew up without much of a context for that part of the world,” Driskell said. “The most rewarding part is the people and the relationships. It’s not worth doing it if you don’t enjoy the people you do it with and the people you meet along the way.”
The product is a result of the relationships the team built along the way, Driskell said, but the whole project didn’t come without challenges.
Most obstacles arose during post-production, as everyone on the team has a full-time job. In addition, six of the 18 interviews were in Arabic, a language Driskell is not fluent in.
“It wasn’t a self-sustaining thing. We are pulling it together in our spare hours, so the challenge is doing it,” Driskell said. “You have to decide that this matters. It was an important project, much more important for Palestinians. I was doing it for something bigger than myself, and that was a motivating factor.”
Taking 18 months total to complete, the group started in June 2017.
What made the film different than others, is what Driskell has done was the language barrier. Palmer, a theatre teacher at Mann Middle school, produced the film, and various highly qualified translators were brought in.
“We had a translator helping us conduct the interviews, but we got the footage back, and we didn’t know the words, sentences and phrases the people were saying in the footage,” Driskell said. “We first had to have detailed transcripts, sentence by sentence. It’s a very tedious project.”
Driskell said the next step is to evangelize the film and put it in the film circuit.
“Tonight will be the last time for awhile anyone will get to see this film,” Driskell said. “The process requires we keep it under wraps until it gets distributed elsewhere.”