In August 2014, POV asked A World Not Ours filmmakers Mahdi Fleifel and Patrick Campbell what’s happened since the cameras stopped rolling.
POV: What has happened in your life (Mahdi Fleifel) and other film subjects, since we last saw you?
Mahdi Fleifel: I am now getting ready to start making my new film.
Saïd (Mahdi’s uncle) is still same old Saïd in the camp, not much has changed, he still has hopes of leaving some day but the reality isn’t in his favor. Granpa (Abu Osama) is good and well. Last he was on a video on Facebook kicking a football with the kids in the alley.
Abu Eyad is in Berlin now. Since the screening of AWNO in the Berlinale, where he was invited to present the film, he has stayed and sought political asylum. His situation isn’t great, he is still in process awaiting to get a permit to stay. But his waiting has some sort of prospect as opposed to his waiting in Ain El-helweh. So he keeps waiting.
What is the status of refugees in Ain el-Helweh?
Patrick Campbell: The refugees in Ain el-Helweh are pretty much in the same situation they have always been in. They are waiting without much hope. What is different now is that, due to the civil war in Syria, there are now 20-50,000 more refugees in the camp. This has led to a lot of overcrowding and increased pressure on the infrastructure of the camp. As in the rest of Lebanon, violence can flare up from time to time. Many people who are on the run for the authorities tend to hide in the camp so this can add to existing tensions.
Has the film been screened in Lebanon or Israel? How have audiences there reacted to A World Not Ours?
Patrick Campbell: The film has been screened in Lebanon a number of times. At one festival in Beirut we won a distribution award but the film was subsequently banned by the Lebanese censor’s office so our future screening plans are uncertain just now. Reactions to the few screenings we have had were very positive, a lot of people appreciated that this issue was being brought to light.
We have also screened the film in Palestine. Earlier in the summer we took part in a festival organised by the French consulate in Jerusalem. There were some very positive responses from there and we look forward to getting the film out there more. We have recently completed an Arabic version of the film and intend on touring that around different communities in the Occupied Territories and the Israeli state. Generally speaking we have a policy of not engaging with state backed events in Israel so our screenings will be organised by grassroots organisations operating there.
How have international audiences reacted to A World Not Ours? What do you hope an American public television audience will take away from the film?
Patrick Campbell: Audience reaction tends to be a little different in each place, which is interesting. Broadly speaking I think people really connect with the film on an emotional/personal level and have enjoyed it a lot. Obviously the film has the ability to evoke strong reactions and some people have disagreed with the portrayal of the camp or the supposed politics behind the film.
We would really like U.S. audiences to take away a sense of the people of Ain el-Helweh. This film offers viewers a chance to meet Palestinians outside of the typical context of conflict and really get to know them as human beings. It would also be very rewarding if people took a moment to ask why, after over 60 years, people are still living in a camp of this kind and what a just solution to this issue looks like.
What are you working on next?
Patrick Campbell: Ain el-Helweh and the experience of exile is a very deep well of inspiration, so we have a lot on the go right now, including Xenos, which is a short film epilogue to A World Not Ours. The main focus, however, is a ‘sequel’ of sorts to A World Not Ours that Mahdi and I are working on (alongside our Danish partners at Final Cut For Real) right now. This time the film will be fictional but very much rooted in the experience of Abu Eyad and his friends in Athens. Mahdi is feverishly writing and we will both move to Amsterdam in September to take part in a Binger Filmlab project development course.