A World Not Ours: Deep inside a Palestinian refugee camp

Danish-Palestinian director Mahdi Fleifel offers an inside view of his family and a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon

Events and Festivals, Palestine

A World Not Ours: Deep inside a Palestinian refugee camp

When the state of Israel was created in 1948, thousands of Palestinians were forced or compelled to leave, with many of them ending up in refugee camps. These camps have now turned into enormously packed cities on foreign soil, such as Ain al-Hilweh camp in southern Lebanon, where Danish-Palestinian director Mahdi Fleifel grew up and to which he returns for his documentary A Would Not Ours. The film was shown at the recent Berlin Film Festival in the Panorama Dokumente documentary section.

The film is partly a biographical film about Fleifel’s own youth and his family, with his parent spending part of the director’s youth in Dubai, though his grandfather and some other family members stayed behind in Ain al-Hilweh (which literally means “Sweet Spring,” an almost ironic name for a place packed with people who can’t go anywhere). Fleifel’s father’s obsession with filming everything means there’s a lot of family footage available for the film.

The director’s grumpy grandfather, who has never left the camp and will stay there until the Palestinian people can return to their land, is also seen, going about his daily business. Fleifel also frequently visits his friend Aby Iyad, who shares with the director (and much of the camp) a passion for football, with the world cup games an extraordinary event in the camp during which each Palestinian chooses a country to cheer on.

The film is full of humour but also drama as it paints an intricate picture of daily life in the camp, which operates like any normal city of 70,000 but with the difference that it’s impossible for its inhabitants to leave — the director can leave because he was born in Dubai and has Danish papers — or get any work outside of the camp, reducing them to people who have to wait for things to get better.

The documentary was produced by London-based Nakba FilmWorks, which is co-owned by the director.


Boyd van Hoeij


A World Not Ours - trailer 


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