Psychic Refuge: Commissions Programme 2021
‘They Do Not Exist’ (1974) Screening 1st–5th September with Habibi Collective
Organised in collaboration with Habibi Collective, the first in this series of commissions is a film screening of They Do Not Exist for a limited time and a fundraiser for Aswat, the Palestinian Feminist Center for Gender and Sexual Freedoms.
Salvaged from Beirut, They Do Not Exist has only recently been made available. It is attributed to Mustafa Abu Ali who was a founder of the Palestinian Film Unit (PFU), a department of the Palestinan Liberation Organisation (PLO). After the PLO's move to Lebanon following the events of Black September (1970-71), the PFU was renamed the Palestine Cinema Institute, and Abu Ali led the department from 1973 to 1975. Shooting under extraordinary conditions, They Do Not Exist takes its title from the remark made by former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that the Palestinians do not exist. We watch video and archival footage of Palestinian women in the southern Lebanon Nabatia refugee camp, the narration is a girl reading a letter she penned to a fedayee. They Do Not Exist is a stylistically unique work which demonstrates the intersection between the political and the aesthetic; Ali trained under Godard. The film only received its Palestine premiere in 2003, when a group of Palestinian artists "smuggled" the director to a makeshift cinema in his hometown of Jerusalem.
We encourage viewers to donate to Aswat, the Palestinian Feminist Center for Gender and Sexual Freedoms. Established in 2003 as a small group and registered in 2018 as a community-based organization, Aswat is a vibrant feminist-queer movement for sexual and gender freedoms in Palestine. They work to provide services, training, knowledge and spaces for discussion and expression for LBTQI women, teachers and school staffers, civil society activists, professional service providers and community leaders.
Habibi Collective is a digital archive, podcast and curatorial platform for women’s cinema from South-West Asia and North Africa (SWANA). Habibi Collective has generated an international cinema community, and has hosted numerous screening events at institutions, such as at MoMA and Sharjah Art Foundation, festivals and community spaces across the world. The podcast has welcomed guests such as Alia Shawkat and Annemarie Jacir; Habibi Collective has also hosted multiple community fundraiser events for those affected by conflict in the region. Habibi Collective also powers SHASHA, the world’s first independent streaming service for SWANA cinema. Founded in 2018 by Róisín Tapponi, she was joined in 2021 by friends and cinema workers Shahnaz Dulaimy, Reman Sadani, Louise Gholam, Bella Barkett and Nour Helou.
This is part of a series of micro-commissions developed in response to Psychic Refuge, which will be followed by Alaa Abu Asad, Inas Halabi and Radio Alhara.