(DENTON, TX, 1/20/2024) The Trinity Presbyterian Church in Denton, Texas, hosted its 11th Annual Palestine/Israel Film Festival, an event co-sponsored by CAIR Austin/DFW that brought different members of the community together to celebrate Palestinian Nationalism.
The festival began on January 19th at 7pm, with a screening of “Gaza: Health under Siege” a 2018 film by Amy Miller that highlighted the difficulties Gazans suffer concerning medical care.
The festival continued into Saturday, with multiple short films shown at 5pm, followed by Palestinian musical performances, poetry, and a meal. The festival was bookended with the screening of “Israelism,” a film about the indoctrination Jewish people have experienced by the state of Israel.
Craig Hunter, the pastor of the church, went with members of his congregation to Palestine in 2010 and 2012 and had the opportunity to speak with multiple organizations on the ground. After the group returned to the United States in 2012, there was a desire to inform others about the atrocities in the region.
Although he is glad that around 150 people showed up to the festival this weekend, Hunter recognizes the event’s success is bittersweet.
“On the one hand, it’s great that all these people come, but it’s heartbreaking about what’s going on over there, it’s heartbreaking that there’s still the need for this more now than before,” the pastor said.
Aside from the films and the music, attendees were able to give remarks and ask questions. Some people thanked the organizers for hosting the event and giving them the chance to become more informed, others added helpful information and context to the films.
The Palestinians who performed at the festival gave thanks to those in attendance for helping spread the message and keeping people informed. After her performance, one of the singers, a young girl who sang in public for the first time at the festival, thanked everyone for helping the “fight between good and evil.”
CAIR Austin/DFW, who co-sponsored the event, sent several staff members, including Community Relations Coordinator Shaimaa Zayan and Interim Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll. Zayan said she loved how the films “humanized the Palestinian people.”
“The festival gave voice to people who otherwise have no voice in the mainstream media,” Zayan said. “This includes the voice of the Israeli Jews who came alive and regretted the atrocities they committed against the Palestinian people. We will continue to support this festival in the future, In shaa Allah."
“What I thought was special about the festival was the number of non-Palestinian non-Muslim over there,” Carroll said about the event. “That was special.”
Multiple speakers used the festival to bring attention to important causes. Rifat Malik, the creator and Editor-in-Chief of the media outlet American Muslim Today, spoke about the effect Israel is having on how it’s portrayed in the media. One individual encouraged people to register to vote to help bring change.
Sama, the vice president of the University of North Texas’ Palestine Solidarity Committee, said the success of the film festival was “gratifying and rewarding” for her as a Palestinian.
“Being able to come here and see people of all races and all genders here to support my people is really amazing,” she said.
Sama also announced the creation of a ceasefire resolution in Denton and asked people to sign the petition.