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Toronto Palestine Film Festival aims to look beyond the headlines

jasmine rezaee

Leila's Birthday — playing as part of the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, Friday Oct. 2nd Bloor Cinema at 7:00 PM

While most Torontonians know about TIFF—the hugely publicized Toronto International Film Festival—very few have heard about TPFF, the Toronto Palestine Film Festival. Unlike TIFF, the TPFF isn’t attended by Hollywood stars, doesn’t receive much mainstream media coverage and has no paid staff.

Despite these challenges, TPFF is an ambitious film fest that features over 40 films and documentaries about Palestine and the Palestinian Diaspora. By showcasing the diversity of Palestinian culture and people, the film fest attempts to dispel stereotypes of the victimized or violent Palestinian.

According to Dalia Majid, a TPFF spokesperson the aim of the festival is “to support Palestinian filmmakers and artists, because they often face major challenges in getting their films made and screened.” Another aim is to showcase “Palestinian culture, aspirations, humour, satire—the range of emotions all people feel, including Palestinians.”

Some festival highlights include the Canadian premiere of Amreeka, the North American premiere of To My Father (Tuesday, September 29, 7:00 PM), Checkpoint Rock: Songs of Palestine (Wednesday, September 30, 7:00 PM), and Laila’s Birthday (Friday, October 2, 7:00 PM), a film screened at last year’s TIFF. This year’s festival also includes an art exhibit, three discussion forums, a film and food brunch program, and will be attended by seven directors.

Majid says that the response so far “has been very positive. Last year people attended the film fest out of curiosity and left very impressed. We have big expectations for this year’s film fest.”

When asked whether the TPFF has an official position regarding the controversy that raged at TIFF this year, Majid explains that the TPFF has “welcomed the discussion that followed the petition and boycott” because “at the very least it got people talking,” which she said was better than silence and indifference.

The second annual TPFF started last Friday and ends this Friday, October 2. The programming guide is available at the fest’s website.

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