A dazzling act of first-person filmmaking, Mahdi Fleifel's A WORLD NOT OURS immerses us in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh ('Sweet Spring') in Lebanon. Hastily built in 1948, it now houses 70,000 refugees in one square kilometre. Fleifel spent his formative years in the camp in the 1980s before his family settled in Denmark, and for years he has been returning and keeping a video diary. His conversations with the camp residents offer an unfiltered take on life in Ain el-Helweh and the inhabitants' grievances with Lebanon, Israel and their own political leaders. At the heart of the film is Fleifel's relationship with his friend Abu Eyad, with whom he shares an obsession with World Cup football and Palestinian politics. But while Fleifel can visit the camp when he pleases, Abu Eyad must remain an inequity that makes their friendship both extra precious and sometimes tense. Abu Eyad is Fleifel's access-point to parts of the camp that few outsiders could ever hope to visit, and emerges as one of the most vivid and fascinating personalities on view, along with Fleifel's crusty octogenarian grandfather and his live-wire uncle.
Filmed over more than 20 years by multiple generations of the same family, this film is more than just a family portrait; it is a sensitive and illumination study of belonging, friendship, and family -- an attempt to record what is being forgotten, and mark what should not be erased from collective memory. Fleifel succeeds in telling an uplifting and truly funny film about hope in a hopeless world.
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