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Politicising Tourism in Palestine

Film screening and discussion

8/06/16 6:30 pm


We often think of tourism as a separate realm from politics. This event seeks to disrupt this perception with a screening of Leila Sansour’s documentary Open Bethlehem, which tells the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a novel and insightful way by focusing on the famous city of Bethlehem, where many residents depend on the tourist industry for their livelihoods. The film details the everyday effects of occupation on the city, now struggling for its survival due to the wall that imprisons the population and isolates them from the outside world.

Following the screening, director Leila Sansour will be in conversation with Ryvka Barnard, Researcher in Middle Eastern Studies, documentary filmmaker and scholar Yael Friedman, and Memory Studies expert Nina Fischer. The panel will situate tourism in Israel/Palestine within the contexts of colonialism, dispossession and military occupation. In the West Bank, tourism takes many forms, including: pilgrimage tours, hiking, visits to national parks and archaeological sites organised by Israel; tourism development by the Palestinian Authority; and an alternative tourism industry that invites visitors to see the occupation’s realities for themselves. The panel will discuss tourism as both a tool of colonisation and strategy of resistance.

Open Bethlehem, Leila Sansour | Palestine, United Arab Emirates, UK | USA | 2014 | 90 mins

Open Bethlehem is a story of a homecoming to the world’s most famous little town and how it was encircled by a wall. Director Leila Sansour, who left Bethlehem as a teenager, returns armed with her camera and a dilapidated family car that keeps breaking down. She plans to make an epic film about a legendary town in crisis. But, just a few months into filming, her life and the film take an unexpected turn when her cousin Carol persuades her to stay to start a campaign to save the town. Spanning seven momentous years in the life of Bethlehem, the film draws from 700 hours of original footage and some rare archive material, and reveals a city of astonishing beauty and political strife under occupation.

View trailer.

This is the second event in the The Mosaic Rooms’ series Crisis and Creativity: A Season of Contemporary Films from and about the Arab World curated by Shohini Chaudhuri. 

Shohini Chaudhuri is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex. Her publications include Cinema of the Dark Side: Atrocity and the Ethics of Film Spectatorship (2014) and Contemporary World Cinema: Europe, the Middle East, East Asia and South Asia (2005).

TICKETS: £6.50 online (no booking fee), £7.50 on the door or rsvp@mosaicrooms.org

Please ensure you arrive on time as latecomers’ tickets may be reallocated.


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Politicising Tourism in Palestine
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