Rashid Masharawi Announces New Film Project Inspired by Gaza War

Palestinian Filmmaker Rashid Masharawi. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Palestinian Filmmaker Rashid Masharawi. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Rashid Masharawi Announces New Film Project Inspired by Gaza War

Palestinian Filmmaker Rashid Masharawi. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Palestinian Filmmaker Rashid Masharawi. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Palestinian Filmmaker Rashid Masharawi announced that he established a fund to support filmmakers in his city, Gaza.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he said the Palestinian cinema has affected the Palestinian cause and promoted it in international festivals. He also said that he is currently making the final touches on a new feature film which he shot in Palestine before the war. He is also preparing a documentary inspired by the ongoing war.

Masharawi slammed the suspension of Arab film festivals and hailed the “Window on Palestine” program, which he was keen to attend at Egypt’s Gouna Film Festival.

The Palestinian filmmaker believes that the film festivals are platforms of culture, awareness and promotion of art, and that they must keep going despite the war. “The cinema is highly important to support people and highlight their culture and identity anywhere,” he said.

About the films screening as part of the “Window on Palestine” program at the Gouna Festival, he said: “I liked their diversity, features and documentaries, and the variety of the covered topics,” noting that “it’s very important, especially during this time, to present a different image of Palestine.”

Masharawi assures that “the aggression didn’t start on October 7, but 75 years ago. These facts are presented in films more than in the news. These films should be screened so the Arab and western audiences know the truth.”

Masharawi is the first Palestinian filmmaker who made features and documentaries inside the occupied Palestinian territories, including “Laila’s Anniversary”, “Falastine Stereo” and “Letters from Yarmouk.”

The director believes that the Palestinian cinema has served the cause of his country, noting that “it has certainly highlighted the cause and affected a large audience inside and outside Palestine, especially some works that partook in international festivals qualified by their artistic value, not only their political view.”

Masharawi, who has been working in filmmaking for 40 years, said: “I know how us, filmmakers, work on an identity that cannot be occupied. Our identity is emphasized by history, language, culture and traditions, which are all highlighted in cinema. The occupation kills people and destroys buildings, but it’s hard to erase an identity.”

The Palestinian director, who lives between France and Palestine, revealed that he “established a fund to support cinema and filmmakers in Gaza,” noting that “this is the first time I talk about the fund aimed at creating and helping a new generation of young filmmakers in Gaza, who have myriads of stories that they lived during the war. I also promise to make a documentary inspired by the war in Gaza. Many cinematographers are already working on it.”

He added that he has many projects that he still didn’t reveal, noting that the “Gaza fund” is a continuation of his project to support the Palestinian cinema, which he started years ago to train young filmmakers.

As a Gazan, he knows well the disasters that war has caused and how much of his favorite places it has destroyed. “The cultural center I built and our houses were demolished, we lost family members, friends and neighbors, but we are ashamed of talking about them because death has affected everybody. I live the war like if I was there, like if the bombs hit me every day although I am not in Gaza,” he explained.

Before the war, he wrote a script of a feature film that anticipates what’s happening right now. “The film ends with a bloody war in Gaza. I wrote it before the outbreak of this ongoing, unstoppable war,” he said.

Masharawi is currently making final touches on his film “Ephemeral Dreams”, which he finished before the war. It tells the story of a Palestinian boy who lost a bird, and then embark on a journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and Jaffa to find it. He passes by checkpoints and a wall, witnessing the tragedies inflicted by the occupation. The film will be ready for display within two months, he concluded.



What is China's Panda Diplomacy and How Does it Work?

Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
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What is China's Panda Diplomacy and How Does it Work?

Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)

During a visit to Australia this week, Chinese Premier Li Qiang made a classic goodwill gesture that boded well for relations between the two countries: he offered to send pandas.
The offer comes as ties between Australia and its largest trading partner improve after a diplomatic dispute that led to China imposing a raft of restrictions on Australian agricultural and mineral exports in 2020.
Native to China, pandas have through the years become "envoys of friendship", earning China's outreach to countries it gifts the animals to the name of panda diplomacy, Reuters said.
They have also been used to show Chinese anger.
So what is panda diplomacy and how does it work?
WHEN DID PANDA DIPLOMACY START?
Since its founding in 1949, the People's Republic of China has used panda diplomacy to boost its international image, either by gifting or lending panda to foreign zoos as goodwill animal ambassadors.
Former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1957 gifted a panda, Ping Ping, to the former Soviet Union to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution that ushered in the Soviet regime.
To further cement ties with its socialist allies, China dispatched another panda to the Soviet Union in 1959 and five more to North Korea between 1965 and 1980.
In 1972, Beijing gifted two pandas, Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, to the United States after then President Richard Nixon's historic visit, in a sign of normalized China-US relations and marking a pivotal moment for China's foreign policy.
Since then, other countries including Japan, France, Britain and Spain have also been given panda.
WHAT'S THE PANDA DIPLOMACY POLICY?
Since 1984, China stopped gifting pandas due to their dwindling numbers and began loaning them to overseas zoos instead, often in pairs for 10 years, with an annual fee of up to about $1 million.
While keeping pandas can be costly for zoos, they are seen as drawcards for visitors and help generate income.
The pandas typically return home to southwest China after the loan agreement ends. Panda cubs born overseas are no exception, and would be sent home between the age of two and four to join a Chinese breeding program.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
China has a history of using pandas to reward its trading partners. A 2013 Oxford University study said the timing of China's lease of pandas to Canada, France and Australia "coincided with" uranium deals and contracts with these countries.
The panda agreements with other countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, also coincided with the signing of free-trade agreements.
Sometimes, pandas are also used to express China's displeasure with a nation.
In 2010, China recalled two US-born pandas, Tai Shan and Mei Lan, after Beijing warned Washington against a scheduled meeting between then-President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, which Beijing views as a dangerous separatist.
In a recent downturn in bilateral ties, Ya Ya, on loan to the US for 20 years, was returned in April 2023.
Concerns over her health had also fanned nationalist sentiment on China's social media, with animal advocates accusing the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee of providing inadequate care to the animal.
In November last year, three other pandas left, leaving only four giant pandas on US soil.
That month, Chinese President Xi Jinping then hinted that he was open to sending more pandas to the US after meeting with President Joe Biden in California, a gesture seen as Chinese willingness to improve ties.
ARE PANDAS STILL ENDANGERED?
China's domestic conservation programs have seen the status of pandas improve from endangered to vulnerable.
The population of giant pandas in the wild has grown from around 1,100 in the 1980s to 1,900 in 2023.
There are currently 728 pandas in zoos and breeding centers around the world.