Road to Tantura: visualizing the Palestinian Nakba
Road to Tantura is an important and promising documentary by Hala Gabriel, that will be released soon. It deals with the history and present of Tantura, a fishing village south of Haifa, that was ethnically cleansed by Zionist terror brigades on May 22, 1948. The catastrophe (‘Nakba’ in Arabic) of Zionist ethnic cleansing struck hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns in that fateful year. Hala Gabriel’s documentary takes us to Tantura, where her parents were born, while she herself was born in Syria after they were forced into exile. We are honored and delighted to interview the person behind this unique and important documentary, and find out more about what to expect.
Can you tell us what happened to Tantura?
Tantura was a small Palestinian village on the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Haifa. It’s where my father, grandfather and great-grandfather were born and raised. It was a very prosperous village, rich with agricultural farming and known for it’s sardines and other fresh fish. In the late evening hours of May 22nd, 1948, it was attacked by the 33rd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade that was part of the Israeli army, and Tantura was cleansed of its entire Palestinian population.
What’s the significance of Tantura to the Palestinian narrative?
What happened in the village of Tantura is not unique at all. In fact, I suspect that what happened in Tantura may have happened to several hundred other Palestinian villages. What makes this film unique is that we have actual witnesses and participants (both the Palestinian villagers of Tantura and the Israeli soldiers) who tell what happened in Tantura. But what is really significant is that the story of Tantura represents the largely untold story of the nearly 500 Palestinian villages that literally perished from the earth. My film Tantura explains in details what happened to one of those villages so that audiences can begin to imagine and understand what may have happened to all the rest.
What made you decide to make a documentary film about it?
Well, to be honest, I was rather ignorant about what had actually happened in Palestine. You see, Although I was born in Syria as a Palestinian refugee, my family was fortunate because we had the opportunity to immigrate to the US when I was a young child. Although my parents regularly spoke about politics of the Middle East, they rarely spoke about what actually happened that resulted in our family becoming refugees living in Syria. This was essentially my journey of self-discovery, and the more I learned the more it was clear that I had a responsibility to share it with the world and provide a more accurate perspective than what people get in mainstream US media.
What are you aiming to achieve by publishing this film? What can the audience expect to see?
My main aim in completing Tantura is to give people an idea about what happened to the Palestinians. Often times we have been represented as aggressors or even described as terrorists. We have been accused of exaggerating or misrepresenting the truth. My hope is that Tantura will dispel a lot of those myths. By the mere fact that I have these intersecting lines between the Israeli and the Palestinian narratives, of people that were actually present, I feel it will shed a fresh light on what villages like Tantura experienced. Through this film, audiences will better understand what actually happened to Palestinians and why today the Palestinians account for the largest and oldest population of refugees in the world.
Do you expect them to be able to relate to it in the 21st Century?
Unfortunately, Tantura has become even more relevant today than when I first started filming it 10 years ago. The second largest population fleeing Syria today are Palestinian refugees. The next generation of Palestinians is now reliving what their parents and grandparents survived and lived through in Palestine in 1948, and in no small part because of what happened in 1948.
What is the take home message of the documentary?
First and foremost, the take-home message of Tanura is to raise awareness and counter the Zionist narrative surrounding the 1948 war and the cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians from hundreds of villages. Of course I would love Palestinians to have the option of returning to their homes in Palestine, but that is a long road that starts with countering decades of misinformation.
Do you get a lot of support for the film?
My film has been mostly self-funded to date. We are currently in the middle of a Kickstarter crowd funding campaign at https://kickstarter.com/projects/tantura/tantura hoping to raise our goal so that we can move faster towards completing the film. Next year marks the 70-year anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) and the 70-year anniversary of the attack on Tantura, and our goal is to finish the film so that it will be in film festivals, streaming and in theaters this time next year.
What can people do to help promote it?
People can check out our Kickstarter campaign. We have a 2-minute video trailer/teaser as well as a video appeal by me that give an idea about the project. And if you are at all moved by what you see, we ask that you please share, share, share and if you can push that green button that says “Back this project” then please donate. Every donation counts because with Kickstarter it is all or nothing, so if we don’t meet our goal, every pledge we have raised will end up being returned to the donors and we are left at square one.
Well … we can’t let that happen, can we? Go to Kickstarter and donate! Many thanks to Hala Gabriel for her important work in documenting the Nakba. The Musical Intifada wishes her tremendous success with the Kickstarter campaign, and with the release of the movie! Below, you can watch a moving preview of the documentary.