At 83, Acre Still on His Mind

By 
Lynne Rogers
"Still Life", courtesy of Cinema Guild.


Still Life
Directed by Diana Allan
Cinema Guild, 2007

The short film, “Still Life” begins with an elderly man aimlessly puttering in his Sidon apartment that has temporarily lost its electricity. With every day of his 83 years showing on his face, the Palestinian Said Ismael Otruk looks through his old photos from his “golden days” in Acre before he left at 12 years old to find refuge in Sidon. Although he has had a shop in Sidon for 55 years, he still aches for his homeland. As Diana Allan’s camera slowly and painfully veers from shots of his face to his old photos, the measured tempo of his memories contrasts with the active street noises from moving traffic outside his window. His shaking fingers point out the landmarks of Acre as he describes the local personalities. He remembers the fish they used to catch in this nostalgic paradise. Later, they used the fishing boats to transport the fleeing Palestinians to the larger boats. He compares the huddled Palestinians loaded with bundles to fishes. Eventually his family joined the others and he has never returned to the border to see the sea of his childhood.  

Like the work of Palestinian artist, Vera Nassir, this short documentary testifies to an innocent childhood disrupted by the Occupation. However, the gentle Said remembers sharing the bounty of fish with the families of Israeli settlers and saves his curses for the Arab government who “pushed us out of our homes” with a promise that the families would be able to return in seven days. At a time when the world is witnessing the growing numbers of refugees, this short film artfully records one voice that echoes for many.

This article appeared in Al Jadid Magazine, Vol. 19, No. 69, 2015.
     
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