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"The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir’im"
A Film by John Halaka

Kafr Bir'im

The Ruins of Kafr Bir’im. 2006. Photo Credit John Halaka ©

When: Saturday February 16, 2008 6 PM

Where: Al-Awda Center, 2734 Loker Avenue West Suite K, Carlsbad CA 92010

About the Film: Released 2007 by SittingCrow Productions. Produced, filmed, written, narrated and directed by John Halaka. Edited by Marissa Bowman. Music composed and performed by the Ramallah based musician Mohsen Subhi. Running time: 60 minutes. Language: English and Arabic with English subtitles.

Description provided by John Halaka:

"Shot on location in the ruins and cemetery of Kafr Bir’im, a Palestinian village located in the Northern Galilee, the film introduces the viewer to Mr. Ibrahim Essa, an elderly poet who survived the ethnic cleansing of his homeland in 1948. Mr. Essa’s family has lived in Kafr Bir’im for the past 700 years. Through his narrative and poetry, Ibrahim Essa recounts his experiences as a youth in the village, the hardships of a life in exile and the intense emotional, physical and historical connections to the land that he shares with the 5,000,000 Palestinians who currently live in the Palestinian diaspora. Mr. Essa employs an ancient oral tradition of poetry that, in style, is similar to what is now referred to as “Spoken Word Poetry.” This improvisational oral tradition has been around for centuries in Northern Palestine and continues to be used by farmers and villagers to express the community’s intimate relationship to the land; a yearning for past times; and their cultural, psychological and physical attachment to the ancient and modern ruins that exist throughout that region.

In his introduction to the events that resulted in the complete destruction of the village, John Halaka explains that ”The village of Kafr Bir’im was ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian inhabitants by the military forces of the newly established state of Israel in early November 1948. All of the 1050 inhabitants of Kafr Bir’im were driven from their land, and were never allowed to return to the homes and fields that they and their ancestors had inhabited and cultivated for centuries.”

The film commemorates the 60th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The ethnic cleansing campaign was systematically carried out by Jewish military forces between December 1947and December 1948, resulting in the destruction of Palestinian civil and political societies, the eradication of 531 villages, and the expulsion of over 800,000 Palestinian civilians from their homes and homeland. The Palestinians refer to this great catastrophe as the "Nakba," the
Israelis celebrate it as "The War of Independence."

The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir’im presents a seldom-heard Palestinian perspective on the roots of the ongoing Palestinian/Israeli conflict."

About the maker of the film: John Halaka considers himself an activist artist whose creative work serves as a vehicle for meditation on personal, cultural and political concerns. He creates metaphorical images that raise questions, for himself as well as for the viewer, about some of the pressing issues of our time. The primary focus of his work over the past two decades can be summarized as an ongoing reflection on the frailty and resilience of the human condition and the persistent search for self-realization in the face of personal and cultural self-delusion. His experiences as an artist of Palestinian descent shape his pictorial investigations of cycles of repression and displacement as well as the personal and political relationship between desire, denial and instability. His recent work investigates issues of identity construction from personal, familial and political perspectives.

John Halaka is of Palestinian descent and was born in El Mansoura, Egypt, in 1957. He is a Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of San Diego, where he has taught since 1991. He received his MFA in the Visual Arts from the University of Houston in 1983. In 1979, Halaka received his B.A. in Fine Arts from the City University of New York Baccalaureate Program, with Brooklyn College as home school. John Halaka has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions both locally and nationally. His work was included in the exhibit Made In Palestine, organized by the Station Museum, in Houston Texas, as well as, IN-VISIBLE, the inaugural exhibition at the Arab American National Museum in Detroit, Michigan. Halaka’s art can be viewed on his web site.

Directions to Al-Awda Center

Al-Awda's Center is located at 2734 Loker Avenue West Suite K, Carlsbad, CA 92010. From I-5, exit Palomar Airport Road and head East - make a left on Loker Avenue West (first left after you cross El Camino Real) and left into Carlsbad Crossroads business center (look for the large Carlsbad Crossroads sign). End 2734 Loker Avenue West Suite K.

From I-15, exit I-78 West. From I-78 exit San Marcos Blvd and head West. San Marcos Blvd becomes Palomar Airport Road when you enter Carlsbad. Loker Avenue West will be on your right, past the Melrose Drive and El Fuerte intersections. Other directions as above.

From El Camino Real, go East on Palomar Airport Road and make a (first) left on Loker Avenue West. Other directions as above.

Please note: The screening will be preceded by the recording of contributions for the 60 Years of Nakba Video Quilt

For more information:

Al-Awda San Diego
The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-685-3243
Fax: 360-933-3568
Email: [email protected]


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