Back to the movies in former West Bank outlaw city

Fri Aug 6, 2010 6:05am EDT
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By Mohammed Assadi

JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) - The big screen is back in Jenin after a 23-year intermission, marking a fresh start for the West Bank city that was a bastion of armed militias at the peak of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

Mothballed in the grim atmosphere of 1987, Jenin Cinema was finally reopened Thursday evening with a screening of "Heart of Jenin," a wrenching documentary that spurred its renovation.

The film tells the story of Ismail Khatib, whose son was shot dead in 2005 by Israeli troops who mistook his toy gun for a real one. The traumatized father, in an unusual gesture of forgiveness, donated the boy's organs to Israeli patients.

"We rebuilt the cinema on Ismail's message: there is hope," said German director Marcus Vetter, who made the documentary.

"Heart of Jenin" had won numerous prizes, including Germany's Best Documentary award. But Vetter said he realized there was actually nowhere to show the film in Jenin itself.

Thursday it was screened for 500 people at a gala reopening, in another milestone in the peaceful transformation of these once lawless streets near the border with Israel.

"I see my son Ahmed in all these faces," Khatib told the audience.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who was among the guests, told Reuters: "This shows the determination of our people to close the chapter of despair and open the chapter of hope."   Continued...