Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Blog

By Kristyn Acho
Fall Intern, 2014

AAI is proud to sponsor the documentary A World Not Ours (2012) at the fourth annual DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival. Directed by Mahdi Fleifel, the film is a compelling and intimate portrayal of three generations in exile in Lebanon’s Ein el-Helweh refugee camp. Fleifel uses his own video recordings, family archives, and historical footage to tell his story.

Ein el-Helweh, which was established in 1948 to house displaced populations, currently holds nearly 70,000 Palestinian refugees. When Fleifel was still a child, his parents uprooted his immediate family from the camp and moved to Denmark. Fleifel spent his summers at Ein el-Helweh, and he remembers those times fondly.

A World Not Ours chronicles Fleifel’s most recent visit to Ein el-Helweh. During this time, he reunites with his grandfather, uncle, and best friend. Fleifel‘s arrival provides these refugees with relief from the slow pace of life they experience within the confines of the camp. As the film progresses, we find that Fleifel is well aware of his privileged status in relation to his loved ones who reside in Ein el-Helweh. Though Fleifel has the liberty to leave Ein el-Helweh whenever he pleases, his longtime best friend, Abu Eyad, a disenchanted and listless member of the Fatah Party, cannot. This dire reality creates a sense of resentment and tension between the two friends that quietly builds throughout the film.

Above all, A World Not Ours is a film that explores the idea of belonging to somewhere.  Fleifel enlists the World Cup as an allegory for this desire. Every four years, for one month, Palestinian refugees in Ein el-Helweh are no longer stateless refugees. They are Italians, Germans, and Brazilians, cheering for their “home” teams.

More than a mere account of familial past, A World Not Ours represents Fleifel’s need to come to terms with his desire to belong to somewhere.  

Since its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (Tiff), A World Not Ours has won a variety of awards, including, Best Documentary Feature Film at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

So what’s next for Fleifel?

In 2013, Fleifel released a short film epilogue to A World Not Ours called XENOS, which follows Abu Eyad’s journey after fleeing Ein el-Helweh. And in a recent interview conducted by P.O.V., a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television series which showcases independent nonfiction films, Fleifel revealed that he is currently working on a sequel to A World Not Ours. Unlike its predecessor, this film will be fictional, and in his words, “very much rooted in the experience of Abu Eyad and his friends in Athens.”

A World Not Ours will screen at the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival on Friday, October 3 at 8:30 pm. 

A World Not Ours is streaming on the POV website until September 17, 2014.