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LONDON: The documentary “Walled Off,” which premiered in Italy on Thursday, features a star-studded collaboration of active voices in the public eye speaking out on Palestine.

The film is written and directed by Vin Arfuso, an American filmmaker of Palestinian and Italian descent, and co-produced by Palestinian-American model and musician Anwar Hadid.

Other producers on the project are Kweku Mandela, grandson of former South African President and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, and Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters.

The preview screening of “Walled Off” took place at the San Carlo Auditorium in Albenga, northern Italy, as part of European artist-activist Cake$’s first solo exhibition “A Child Is Born In Bethlehem”.

Taking its title from the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, owned and designed by anonymous British artist Banksy, the film highlights the importance of socially and politically engaged art.

The documentary follows Hadid as he explores the hotel’s site-specific facilities and historic rooms with manager Wissam Salsa.

Located next to Israel’s separation wall, which encloses occupied Palestine and annexes part of its land, Banksy said it has the “worst view of any hotel in the world”.

Therefore, the title “Walled Off” is also a play on words, emphasizing that just as the Palestinians are “walled off”, Palestine is “walled off” from the rest of the world. In this sense, the film allows viewers to join Hadid and Arfuso on their journey.

Hadid and Arfuso have been friends since 2018 and first traveled to the West Bank together in April 2019, when Arfuso shot a music video for Hadid’s song “Progression 101.”

The two returned six months later and filmed “Walled Off” for 10 days “in guerrilla fashion” after Arfuso’s equipment was withheld upon his arrival in Israel.

Arfuso told Arab News this meant he sometimes had to film with an iPhone, or mix and match whatever camera and lens he had.

However, the sheer brutality of Arfuso’s “imperfect” cinematic style highlights the tragic beauty of Palestinian resilience, while avoiding any glorification of the occupation.

As a manifestation of Arfuso and Hadid’s dedication to completing the documentary, the cinematic approach perfectly captures what’s at the heart of the story – that visual activism matters.

Later scenes feature archival footage dating back more than five decades, which supports the story’s message on many levels.

“Walled Off” achieves its goal of challenging the Western media narrative of the Palestinian struggle with admirable candor and surprising wit.

It also serves as a compelling look at injustice, chronicling the destruction of Palestinian lives, property, public life, and the daily struggle for human dignity in Palestine.

Viewing Arafat as a symbol of national identity, the film tells the larger story of the Oslo Accords and the peace we have almost achieved. While it is heartbreaking to see the possibility of a better future slipping away, it also reminds us that it is not impossible. In this way, the film encourages viewers to continue strategizing for change.

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable,” Banksy says.

As an art form itself, “Walled Off” did just that.

Both Hadid and Arfuso make appearances, but that doesn’t take away from the film’s message.

“It was very important for me and Anwar not to talk about it about us. We don’t want the selling point to be us; we want the selling point to be, if there is one. , the children of Palestine, and what is important and what is happening on the ground,” Arfuso said.

“We faced a backlash, but the best thing about it is that we welcome it; we only claim human rights. If there is a backlash for demanding human rights, there is clearly something wrong with this situation and hopefully this will inspire people to pursue the matter further.

“Walled Off” will be released in early October.