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Storyteller and Filmmaker Discovering her Roots Through Films

"A documentary allowed me to experience very monumental moments in the history of Palestine that I’ve missed and allowed me to connect my roots and define who I am as a Palestinian"

Jerusalem24 – Ten years ago, when she started her career in advertising, communications, and marketing in the UAE, Jumana Radi, would have never guessed that she would be going into filmmaking and reshaping her thinking and reconnecting with her roots through cinema.

UAE-born Palestinian filmmaker, Jumana, was going through a phase in her life of deep yearning for discovering who she is as a Palestinian and to connect to her roots.

She says, “I was born in the UAE, a blessed and privileged environment, at the same time my parents used to tell me stories about growing up in Palestine, I had a contrast of how different that looked to how I was living, that created a little bit of confusion, am I the same Palestinian that they are? Do I have the right to call myself Palestinian?”.

As a child, Jumana didn’t know what to do with the confusion so it was easier to ignore who she was. It was only when she became an adult, that she couldn’t ignore who she was from a national point of view, “you feel like there’s something missing, an emptiness, and a void in yourself since it’s something I wasn’t addressing”. So, as a young adult she went on a mission to discover herself as a Palestinian, “what “me” belonging to Palestine looks like”.

At that time of confusion and when Juaman was walking home when she came across an art-house cinema, with an ad for Reel Palestine, a Palestinian film festival, and decided to attend.

“I remember the moment I wanted to become a filmmaker when I was standing in a standing-ovation of a documentary called “Naila and the uprising”, that documentary allowed me to experience very monumental moments in the history of Palestine that I’ve missed and allowed me to connect my roots and define who I am as a Palestinian,”.

The turning point for Jumana was how different the role of women in the history of Palestine was compared to what she had imagined, “they were very active, involved, and played a very significant role in society and politics, in shaping what Palestine is. They were brave and courageous; they had a voice.”, an experience that provided a different perspective than what she has imagined.

“Naila and the uprising” was truly the beginning for Jumana to discover, watch and learn more about Palestinian history and cinema. It all shaped her as a Palestinian and what Palestine meant to her, it made her decide to go into filmmaking so she can do for others what these films did for her. She began self-learning the craft of filmmaking, through a dozen online courses and many more conversations with established filmmakers. Jumana had to transition as a writer, from writing for the page to writing for the screen, and in addition to writing screenplays, she started practicing making films by creating edits using stock footage.

After that, Jumana started shooting her own shorts and she’s currently working on two short film projects where she’s experimenting with different styles.

Jumana considers herself an advocate of adding new dimensions to the way people see things, so most of the films she’s working on follow a non-traditional story structure and approach. She adds “I’m also always moved by realism, and so the films I’m working on reflecting elements of raw and truthful visual storytelling”. The themes she explores are vast and have to do with identity, nationalism, love, betrayal, and loss – with special attention to Palestine and women in Palestine.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 5 years of experience in the field of reporting and presenting. Currently works as a reporter and presenter/producer for PBC and Jerusalem24. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna

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