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posted on 11.23.09
by Mazi

A look at Curfew and The Roof, two Palestinian films depicting the Cinematic Space of Occupation.

Both Curfew by Rashid Masharawi and The Roof  by Kamal Aljafari portray the cinematic space of occupation. Both films are situated in the occupied city of Gaza. The Roof also includes Ramollah, in its non-fiction narrative. The space of occupation is that of once was, the space of preset-time, of hopelessness towards future, a space of vicious circular everydayness. It is a space where the notions of private and public emerge, where home loses its privacy and becomes an absurd notion.

As mentioned in both films the notion of home is of has been. It only exists now in the narrative of the past; a representation of something that once was and now is even difficult to evoke in memory. (Gertz and Khleifi, pg. 102) It is not an actual memory or narrative, rather one that resembles itself indirectly through the present conditions of the Palestinians within the film. In The Roof  Aljafari describes this memory in voice over:

"Everything began in 1948. In May, My grandparents were on a boat on their way to Beirut, after their city Jaffa had been bombed. Over those few days the waves got too big, so they were forced to return. […] But when they came back Palestine was already gone. Their homes were gone as well. The people who remained were forced to live in one neighborhood and they were given the houses of other Palestinians. […] In 1948 the owners of this house were still building the second floor. My parents live on the first floor and the past lives above them."
The memory of once Palestine that now under the occupation has given the idea of home an absurd meaning; a home that is unwillingly shared, and embed the past lives in it.

The private and public spheres are intertwined in the space of the occupation. In Curfew the family’s house is a representation of such relation between the private and public. The privacy of the home is interrupted so many times that the family barely gets through a letter. The neighbors are always present whether on the wall, lurking from the window, or simply passing through the house to get to their home. The curfew itself is an intrusion into the private space transforming each private house into a collective space. At the same time the house also resembles a “prison of exile.” Its claustrophobic quality and the way it has crowded an entire family, and perhaps neighbors, who are forced to stay in that space due to the curfew, accentuates this sad irony of a house which is not a home.

Space of the occupation is also represented as a distanced space; distanced from other part of the world, and distanced from the diasporic space. The distance is emphasized through the importance of the television. The redundant depiction of the habit of TV viewing not only suggests the everydayness of lives but it also shows the distance between the occupied space and the outside, whether it is other parts of the Arab world or Washington where the peace talks are taking place. The distance is sensible through unreachability of those in diaspora.  In Curfew the son in Germany is so inaccessible and remote that even his letter doesn’t get read properly. The film coveys impossibility of communication. In The Roof we witness the similar when Aljafari calls a friend in Lebanon; a phone conversation that is concluded in the realization that they can never meet.

There can be felt  a sense of being second-degree citizen in the Palestinian characters of the both films that blur further the idea of home. In Curfew the humiliating way in which the Israeli soldier interrogates the civilians, whom most of them aren’t accused of anything, is an example of such. In The Roof this feeling is more emphasized by the privileges (whether legal or suggestive) that a holder of an Israeli passport is qualified for.


ref: Nurith, Gertz, George Khleifi. “Without Place, Without Time: The Films of Rashid Masharawi.” Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma and Memory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. 101-118.

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