Sheerin of al-Walaja | Palestinian Film Festival

SHEERIN OF AL-WALAJA is short-documentary about Sheerin, a full time female activist with a big voice who stands for the rights of an ever shrinking Palestine. It screened as part of the 2015 Palestinian Film Festival in Sydney in Nov/Dec of 2015, we were meant to review a few of their films but a lot of the links didn’t work so we got one of them, this one. Our South Australian correspondent, Kernel Jordan, reviews this one for Salty, if you wanted to view this you would need to track it down online. Enjoy Jordan’s thoughts………all the best………JK.

 

Sheerin of al-Walaja image
Sheerin of al-Walaja | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Palestinian Film Festival | Sheerin image

 

BY JORDAN DODD

SHEERIN OF AL-WALAJA is a short documentary that gives us a glimpse into what it is like for a full-time activist, living in an ever-shrinking Palestine. Sheerin explains that she has put her life on hold – she is living with her relatives and has quit her job with the UN – to give her people a voice. Many are scared to speak out, which is understandable as the Israeli army aren’t exactly a friendly bunch. Sheerin therefore sees this as her duty.

It is no secret that the Israeli government have erected a giant wall, under the guise of security against terrorism (where have I heard that one before?), along the 1949 Armistice ‘Green line’.

What may be not so well known is that, in addition to building the wall east of the Green Line in areas, further usurping Palestine’s land-mass, some of the walls that have been proposed will completely encircle some Palestinian villages, including Sheerin’s home of al-Walaja. This can be seen here, where we can see that the projected wall will indeed surround the village. This poses a massive array of problems, as one of the biggest issues with the wall as a whole is the small number of gates, and the fact that these gates are sometimes shut for no real reason. As Sheerin says, if their village is encircled by this wall then whether or not the gate is open will affect anyone whose work takes them outside the village.

 

Sheerin of al-Walaja movie image
Sheerin of al-Walaja | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Palestinian Film Festival | The Wall

 

It is hard to see the sense in Israel’s actions, and it is telling and extremely depressing to see children on the street wearing cloth over their faces, as they are already used to the tear gas grenades that the Israeli Army use regularly.

Oh, and keep in mind Israel is a high-profile US-allied country. Their illegal actions of course are going completely unnoticed in Washington.

We see Sheerin face to face with the Israeli army multiple times, and Sheerin jokes at one point that she is giving these soldiers human rights lectures for free, but the footage of her doing so shows an enraged and passionate person. Notably she does not get a response when she hounds them, asking them why they are following orders, even saying that they are acting in the same way that the Nazis acted towards them, simply ‘taking orders’. These clashes are heated and Sheerin is always in the centre of each one, making her voice heard loudly. She has been detained twenty times since she began to advocate for her people, despite having done nothing wrong.

While this film paints a portrait of a seemingly fearless and determined woman, it is not without its faults. At 27 minutes this felt more like a Vice News short than a film. Given the film is made up of private interviews with Sheerin and clips of her speaking at conferences, as well as a few filmed non-violent protests, I can’t help but want more. And this was shot over four years! Unfortunately when watching the film it feels more like one year. It feels incomplete, like the first episode in a series that doesn’t exist.

 

Sheerin of al-Walaja image
Sheerin of al-Walaja | Salty Popcorn Movie Review | Palestinian Film Festival | Sheerin image

 

Perhaps some of this time could have been used to properly explain what Sheerin is advocating for. The details are sparse regarding the Israeli West Bank barrier/wall, and how it relates to her village’s current situation. She does tell us how the wall will affect her village and her people, but one can’t help but feel that a lot more could have been added. I’ve spent two hours reading about the issue since I watched the film; there certainly is no shortage of material to work with. The overall, depressing situation that Palestinians face has to be taken into account though, filming may have been hard. And who knows if Sheerin’s life is in danger.

This film then is a revealing insight into how one’s life is affected if they become a full time activist in such a dangerous place. It also damns the Israeli government and army, as we see soldiers using tear gas when children are around; when no one is armed but them. It is shocking at first, but unfortunately not surprising. It may not be long enough, but it is worth a watch to see how courageous a person can be, and also to get a glimpse into the ever-changing situation in Palestine. It also challenges stereo-types of women in the Middle East, showing how strong one woman can be against the illegal activities of the Israeli government. Whether her actions bring any change though is uncertain.

 

3 and a Half Pops

 

Jordan Dodd is an aspiring novelist hailing from Adelaide, Australia. His first book is a chronicle of his experiences in a rehab centre that was more of a cult than anything else, and his goal is to finish it and pitch it to someone who matters. It can be found here. He also enjoys writing about film, which is probably his biggest obsession (apart from writing). When not writing for Salty Popcorn Jordan has his own website – he can be contacted via www.epilepticmoondancer.net