Palestinian film highlighting prisoners’ experience wins documentary award at Berlinale

On 18 February 2017, Palestinian director Raed Andoni and the film “Ghost Hunting” won the first documentary prize bestowed at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. The unique film brings together former Palestinian political prisoners to rebuild their former prison and re-enact their experiences of interrogation and torture.

Andoni was himself detained by Israeli occupation forces during the first Intifada. At, Andoni is quoted: “The story begins with my own ghosts…It was a matter of retrieving suppressed emotions that lay hidden in me and in all those who have endured such experiences.” Former prisoners who participated in the film built the set that represented the prisons in which they were held, especially the Moskobiya, the notorious Jerusalem interrogation center, and then acted out the roles of guards and prisoners based on their own experiences of interrogation. A Palestinian psychologist was on hand on the set to speak with and counsel participants.

The film includes key statistics on Palestinian political prisoners, while emphasizing individual narratives of the prison experience. It most closely follows the story of Mohammed Abu Atta Khattab, who appears as himself in the film’s interviews and is played by actor Ramzi Maqdisi in dramatized segments. “If it has any firm take-home message, it shows us how bottling up trauma can he highly damaging, and also how Palestinian prisoners use art, poetry and music to escape inside themselves during the soul-crushing grind of confinement,” wrote the Hollywood Reporter.

The film is the second major production in recent years to draw attention to the struggle of Palestinian prisoners. Mai Masri’s feature film “3000 Nights” was released in 2015 and was Jordan’s 2016 submission for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film.

Inspired by the real experiences of Palestinian women political prisoners, the well-reviewed film was met with standing ovations in film festivals and continues to be screened internationally. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the audience award at Valladolid’s festival.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network extends its congratulations to Raed Andoni, Wadee Hanani, Mohammed Abu Atta Khattab and all of the team involved in “Ghost Hunting.” Art and culture have a critical role to play in Palestinian resistance and movement-building on Palestinian, Arab and international levels, and the artistic production of Palestinian prisoners and ex-prisoners is particularly important in this regard. We hope for the widest possible distribution and dissemination of this film and all artistic works that highlight the stories, experiences and lives of Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom.