‘We want to return’: Gazan film festival calls out Balfour on the red carpet

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25 films were screened at the third annual Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival held at the Gaza seaport

GAZA – “I’ve never gone to a film festival or a real cinema before. It was a dream,” said 19-year-old Ali Khaled during the opening ceremony of the Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival in Gaza.

“I always watch the Oscar awards on TV and see celebrities walking on the red carpet. I can’t believe that we have one and I’m walking on it right now,” he added.

To commemorate 100 years since the Balfour declaration – which paved the way to establishing the state of Israel – the 100-metre long red carpet was laid down at the port of Gaza. The concrete pavement underneath was built from the remains of houses destroyed during several wars with Israel.

“A century has passed since the ominous Balfour’s promise, and following ten years of continuous siege on Gaza, we are sending our message: ‘We want to return; we are here to insist on our right to return to our land,” said Saed al-Swairky, a spokesman for the event.

In the 1917 Balfour declaration – which was issued while Palestine was still under British rule – the British government said it viewed “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”.

Palestinians have long condemned the 1917 document as a promise by Britain to hand over Palestinian land that the British did not own to the Jewish people.

The organisers also wanted to change the stereotype associated with the red carpet, so the event was open to the public for free.

“All over the world, the red carpet is preserved for stars and celebrities, but we wanted to tell the world that ordinary Gazans and Al-Shajaiya people are the real stars and heroes. They are the ones who deserve a red carpet,” Swairky said.

The event ran from 12 March until 17 March and was purposely timed to happen just a few days before the Cannes Film Festival. The idea was to draw the attention of the international community to the ongoing suffering of Gazans and Palestinians.

“The world must see the paradox in our lives as Palestinians. Our heroes are suffering to gain their rights, and we are here to stand with them using art and creativity,” said Swairky, before drinking salt water in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. For over a month, approximately over 1,000 prisoners in Israeli jails that have been on a hunger strike in protest of the conditions of their detention and basic rights.

The event has been an annual one since 2015 and took place on the fisherman’s wharf along Gaza’s seaside as well as in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and in Haifa in Israel.


Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival “Red carpet HRFF” is a festival for short and long narrative and documentary films will be held in Gaza Strip to highlights human rights issues, mainly in Palestine and generally all over the world.

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