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Naila and the Uprising @DocHouse

Friday 24 August 2018, by Abena Clarke

Naila and the Uprising was a DocHouse screening.

It’s rare that a film makes me so angry that I can’t seem to describe it without a rant summarising it as ‘o the injustice!’ but that really was the effect of Julia Bacha’s film. Opening scene: mum, grown-up son, living room, baby pictures, embarrassment. This is familiar. That’s how a lot of Naila’s story feels: familiar. She’s just a regular woman, a passionate proactive patriot, mother, friend, wife, sister. She’s a women’s libber (this is the 80s), an outspoken feminist, who believes that she as a woman cannot be free, while her country is under occupation. And thus the story begins.
30 years ago, Naila was a young woman, a grassroots activist, wife and mother, who worked within the women-led organisations which imagined, coordinated and led the nonviolent resistance of the first intifada. Their work brought the Israeli government to the negotiating table with representatives of the the Palestinian people for the first time. As much of the male leadership had been effectively silenced, via exile and imprisonment - like Naila’s own husband - many women understood that their community desperately needed their involvement in order to win their freedom struggle. Or as Naila put it ’the occupation will not end if we stay home’.

Bacha employs news footage from the time from a range of European countries, as well as from Australia and the US, cartoon sequences stylistically reminiscent of Persepolis’ simple but exquisite artistry, and of course, the voices and stories of the activist women of Palestine to craft this incredible tale. Her film’s particular power, perhaps, is successfully reminding us of a different, more hopeful time. For the Palestinian people, and for the world. Naila’s Israeli collaborators tell the story of sympathetic Israeli women’s movements who stood in solidarity with these Palestinian women organising for liberty, of Israeli journalists with whom Naila also worked with, who tirelessly informed the Israeli people of the injustices perpetuated in their name. A time when the US president - a republican at that - was lauded for a particularly progressive, productive stance on Palestine.

My fury stemmed from learning about the Accords. Ultimately, we discover, the fruit of the women’s successful organising was eaten by men. Men - Norwegian and Palestinian - who could not imagine a triumphant, female-led political intervention with such global ramifications, secretly hijacked the negotiations and absolutely sidelined Palestine’s women leaders. How the women reacted was interesting. But the impact on the peace process was catastrophic.
If you remember watching male freedom fighters dressing up as women in the Battle of Algiers, you should watch Naila and the Uprising, where women pose as concerned neighbours and drop resistance flyers into food parcels. Naila was and is an organiser, but she was not the leadership, who are also represented in the film. She was one of many thousands of women based within and organising resistance in communities living through occupation. Naila, like so many others, engaged in the creation of parallel institutions, boycotts, cooperative farms, non-violent nation-building work whose work has largely been forgotten in the story of the peace process.
Naila and the Uprising is must-see viewing for anyone who likes a great story told brilliantly. And strong women everywhere.

Contact us should you wish to find out more about the film and potential future screenings.

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