"The Arab governments pushed us out of our homes... I was twelve years old… I've been here for 60 years." A beautiful, poignant documentary, Still Life examines the effect a collection of personal photos showing life in Palestine before the 1948 displacement have on an elderly Palestinian fisherman living in exile in Lebanon.
The importance of place and memory in preserving a people's history are crucial to Diana Allan's illuminating documentary. In , Said Ismael Otruk, a Palestinian man born in Acre in the 1930s, recalls his childhood and the halcyon days of his youth. His memories, not always accurate, so he relies on the photographs he managed to take with him. They are images of young boys, of the port, of fishing boats and the sea. On one, he reads a note he wrote many years ago: "Acre and Said in the Golden Age."
Allan, an anthropologist and author (her most recent book is "Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile), structures the film around these photographs, but effectively illustrates how they are not simply souvenirs or representations, rather for their owner, they function as imprints of Palestine that still carry material traces of places and people from the past within them. For Said, they have become objects of affective transference, evoking memories that remain crucial to his present sense of self--sacred objects that record another history of relation and belonging.
Still Life is a moving meditation on the role memory, and photographs, play in the lives of those in exile from their homes.
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