November 4, 2016
One of my most favourite actresses is Vanessa Redgrave. Nowadays, she does the voiceover for the powerful and poignant television series, Call the Midwife.
Probably the first time I saw Redgrave on the screen was in Julia in which she co-starred with Jane Fonda. The film decried Nazism and its goal to exterminate Jews during World War II. She won and Oscar for her performance.
But while Redgrave has starred in roles set in the past on stage and screen, in the present and now moment she has been vocal in opposing the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian. To the point that she produced a film on this extremely controversial issue. Four decades later, the situation for the Palestinians sadly remains unresolved. In the activist 1970’s, though, my review refers to the demonstrative stances taken outside the theatre where the film was screened as an important part of writing about The Palestinian.
(On a personal note, my desire to go for a smoke break subsided years ago. I quit smoking over 29 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my son, Luke.)
The following is the piece I did when The Palestinian was shown at the University of Winnipeg in 1978:
Palestinian film shows victim not terrorist
by Tanya Lester
Not being a person who condones violence, I felt guilty as I walked toward Theatre B to see The Palestinian, narrated and produced by Vanessa Redgrave.
The controversial nature of the film was evident even before entering the theatre. Zionists distributed their propaganda outside the door. One man returned the pamphlet angrily when he saw its contents. The Canadian Arab Federation handed out material praising the film, but criticizing the Trotskyist Workers League for using the film for opportunist purposes.
Inside, the theatre was packed.
The film was not about the P.L.O. terrorists who shot down a plane and machine-gunned the survivors. It was about the Palestinian victims at Camp Tal Al Zaatar — the victims of the Lebanese Nationalist Army and imperialism in general.
The story was horrifying. Palestinian people wept quietly as they recalled members of their families, killed or lost in the bombing of the camp. One woman had fourteen missing relatives.
A doctor told of life in the camp during the siege. He said women would bid their families farewell before going to get water, a few feet away from the camp. The enemy bombed the water area frequently. Fifteen days before the final bombing of Tal Al Zaatar, there were no drugs left at the hospital. The Lebanese Nationlist Army would not allow the Red Cross to go into the camp.
One of the most upsetting points was when the film showed Palestinian children being trained for military service. Out of necessity, these children were expected to be adults.
The camera then scanned the Lebanese Nationalists, as they lounged around the pools in their mansions. They were obviously the villains.
The film was advertised as having no actors, because the Palestinians spoke for themselves, but Redgrave thought they needed some help. Throughout the film, whenever she appeared, she displayed a theatrical expression of pity.
As the film entered its third (?) hour, I had had enough and wanted to go for a cigarette. When it did end, though, I clapped.
The Palestinian was controversial. I left the theatre with mixed feelings.
Tanya is now also a psychic, reading tea leaves and tarot etc, and a housesitter as well as a reiki master. For more on this go to teareading.wordpress.com ; her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-538-0086.