Filmmakers in Gaza have finished making what is believed to be the first Palestinian animated feature in 3D in a bid to show a fresh perspective on life through a child’s eyes.
Called “The Scarecrow”, the 40-minute production tells the story of a nine-year-old orphan named Rima and the scarecrow she was given by her parents who died in a car crash.
One day, the scarecrow — who represents the guardian of Palestinian land — is taken away by an Israeli soldier from the family’s land near the border, and Rima sets off with her school friends on a mission to find it.
It is a story which evokes some of the suffering of Palestinian refugees, says director Khalil al-Mazen.
“The world is used to seeing Palestinian children surrounded by death, destruction and war, but this film focuses on their simple dreams,” he told AFP.
“Judgement (on the conflict) is left to the viewer,” says Mazen, who holds a diploma in filmmaking from the Saint Petersburg Academy in Russia and has already made several films and documentaries.
For designer and lighting specialist Usayd Madi, 23, the main aim of the featurette is to communicate the “brutality of occupation, which doesn’t spare children”.
It took a team of 12 local animators and designers nine months of training in direction and production to complete the World Bank-funded film, at a cost of $147,000 (112,500 euros).
Zainab Bakri, who designed Rima’s home, her village and clothing worn by the character and her friends, as well as her grandmother — who appears dressed in a traditional embroidered robe — is confident the project will be well received “because the message of the film is humanitarian”.
“Imagination and animation are more accessible than documentaries,” she told AFP after working for months with her team in a small, improvised studio in Gaza to complete the project.
“Imagination is a wonderful way of putting a message across,” agrees her colleague Aya Abu Hamra, who drew several of the characters.
But first, they want to show the film to a local audience — no small feat in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip where there is not a single working cinema.
There is not yet a date for a first screening which the directors say is likely to take place in a town hall or some other local venue.
It is not the first time that Gaza has made a foray into the high-tech world of 3D.
Three years ago, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement, released a short 3D animation online about the possible fate of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier whom they had been holding since 2006.
The three-minute cartoon showed Shalit’s father visibly ageing as he walks through empty city streets past billboards of former and future Israeli leaders vowing to free his son.
In the end, the body of the soldier is shown being returned in a flag-draped coffin as part of a prisoner exchange, when suddenly the father wakes up and realises it was just a dream and that there is still time to bring his son back alive.
Shalit was eventually freed in a prisoner swap in October 2011.
But those involved in “The Scarecrow” are hoping that their film will go a lot further, with Abu Hamra saying she believes it will eventually make it big internationally.
“We’re working to distribute the film (abroad) once it has been shown in Gaza,” says Nur al-Khudari, director of the Gaza-based Zeitun Foundation, which started the project.
First stop is the Arab world. “We’re in talks with Arabic-language satellite TV channels to sell it,” he told AFP.
Mazen says the idea is to throw a creative light on the Palestinian situation.
“We just want to show the world the suffering of the Palestinians, particularly children, in a human and creative way.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]