- Title: WEST BANK: First Palestinian animated film tackles breast cancer
- Date: 7th July 2009
- Summary: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK (RECENT) (REUTERS) WIDE OF SCREEN SHOWING THE FILM
- Embargoed: 22nd July 2009 13:00
- Reuters ID: LVA1ODJPFJA32G3RT2SCI24PG34Z
- Story Text: First Palestinian animation film, "Fatenah", illustrates the life of a Gazan woman suffering from cancer. Inspired by the life and death of 28-year-old Fatima Barghout, who died in 2004, 'Fatenah' attempts to illustrate the humiliation and frustration she suffered in trying to enter Israel for treatment during a Palestinian uprising.
The true story of a young Gaza woman's lost battle against breast cancer has been commemorated in the first commercial animated film made in the Palestinian territories.
"Fataneh" was inspired by the plight of 28-year-old Fatima Barghout, who died in 2004, and the humiliation and frustration she suffered in trying to enter Israel for treatment during a Palestinian uprising.
Director and animator Ahmad Habash said the 30-minute film, funded by the World Health Organisation and based on findings by the Israeli Physicians for Human Rights (IPHR), took an even-handed approach.
"The story was based on the suffering of the girl, but doesn't mean that there aren't symbols in the film. I often wonder if people pick them up or not and you have. Fatenah represents Palestine," said Habash.
"We didn't directly discuss politics, we've left it to the people to feel", Habash continued.
In the film, the character named Fatenah finally gains admission to Israel's Tel Hashomer hospital with the help of the Israeli physicians' group after being entangled by Israeli and Palestinian red tape.
The film's climactic scene occurs at Israel's Erez checkpoint on the Gaza border, where cancer-weakened Fatenah is aggressively made to disrobe for an Israeli security check, exposing the two mastectomies on her chest.
Saed Andony, the film's producer, said that the sensitivity of the story they tackled almost made it crucial for the film to be portrayed in animation form.
"The subject of the film is heavy. If we were to make a documentary on it, it would be a very heavy film, built on talking heads, people talking and giving their opinions and that's not what we want. We wanted to move in a more cinematic direction, in a new direction with regards to Palestinian cinema. So we decided to go in the direction of animation which is a new trend, a new trend globally, making animation films for adults that tackle sensitive, big and important issues," he said in an interview.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, about 300 Palestinians request treatment outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip every week.
Health services are particularly stretched in the Gaza Strip, where Israel tightened border restrictions after Hamas Islamists violently took over the territory in 2007.
Conditions deteriorated further during the 22-day offensive that Israel launched last December with the declared aim of curbing cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said some 24,000 Palestinians received medical treatment outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past two years.
According to the IPHR, many of those patients asked to be treated in Israel, but after the Gaza offensive, the Palestinian Authority initiated a new policy of sending them there only if medical care was unavailable in the West Bank, Egypt or Jordan.
Ran Yaron, a spokesman for the IPHR, said that while only 1.5 percent of requests for treatment in Israel are denied by Israeli security services, leaving the Gaza Strip is a mission seen to be impossible by most Palestinians.
He said bureaucracy, as well as delays at the Israel-Gaza border, result in more than half of prospective patients from the Gaza Strip missing their appointments in Israel.
Israeli troops and settlers pulled out of the enclave in 2005. But Yaron said Israel is still an occupying power, with a responsibility to treat Gaza residents, because it continues to control the enclave's borders and the entry of medical supplies.
The film, which has been translated into English and Hebrew, will be presented at film festivals in Venice, Toronto, and Dubai, before being shown in the Palestinian territories.
Habash and Andony said they hope to show Fatenah to U.S. audiences but there were no immediate plans to screen the film in Israel, although the producers have said they would welcome the opportunity.
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