Houston, Texas is known for its diverse cultures seen through the infusion of art and film. For film lovers, the Houston Palestine Film Festival (HPFF) is part of this experience, which aims to provide viewers a glimpse into the lives of Palestinians. The film festival screens moving films in multiple genres such as comedy, documentary and drama that intend to make what seems like an unreachable region tangible to American viewers. “Sometimes the films are controversial,” said Lara, an avid attendee, “but they do not try to show just one aspect (of Palestine).”
HPFF will be hosting its 11th annual film festival May 5–7. The film festival is made possible by both the dedicated supporters who fund the festival and the loyal viewers who return year after year, eager to connect with the vivid portrayal of characters and content presented on screen. “What makes me come back each year is the ability to see movies that remind me about my culture and background and to experience something that is different,” Lara explained.
The goal of HPFF is to connect to all audiences no matter what their background and bring to life a culture that yearns to be shared. “This is not about activism or protesting; it is an art form that we are proud and delighted to share with our viewers,” remarks Khalil AbuSharekh, president of HPFF. Lara has already invited her colleagues to join her to explore and learn about her culture.
This year, the selection of films is more limited than previous years. As AbuSharekh explains, “the intention is to bring the best films to our audience and not just to have films for the sake of having them and filling up the venue.” Nonetheless, each of the festival’s films is compelling, unique and presents a different side of Palestine through the eyes of Palestinians. Opening night at the MFAH Houston will host Gaza Surf Club an inspirational documentary about a group of young men who use the raging sea as an escape from circumstances on land bringing audiences to tears, not of sadness but of joy.