Living in Denmark and visiting Ain el-Helweh each summer, I always found it hard to explain the place I was from, the place where I had just spent my holidays, to my classmates. While they would return with tales of Club Med or the south of France, I would tell them about chasing cats in alleyways, climbing fig trees and playing with Kalashnikovs. I did my best, but I could never properly make them understand this place. Then, when I was older, I started making fiction films in school. All of these dealt with issues of identity; I think I was trying to explain once more where I am from and who I am. Despite some success with the shorts, I never felt I was telling the story I wanted to tell.
Finally, in the summer of 2010, I went to the camp to conduct research for a fiction feature, an adaptation of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, set around my uncle’s sports shop during the 1994 World Cup. I shot continuously for weeks on end and discovered my father’s old VHS tapes from around that time. On returning to London, I sat down with my editor to cut a teaser and realized that I actually had everything I needed to tell the story I had wanted to tell all along — the reality would be far more satisfying than fiction. From then on, it was just a matter of finding the story among all those hundreds of hours of footage.
In many ways, my film is about memory and the need to remember. Forgetting for us Palestinians would simply mean ceasing to exist. Our fight throughout history, and still today, is to remain visible. Making this film was a way of reinforcing and strengthening our collective memory. But most important, it was a way to keep a record of my own family history.
— Mahdi Fleifel, Director of A World Not Ours