Un(der)seen Cinema: They Do Not Exist

Early Palestinian cinema and its consequent visual culture sought to give, to the world, an image of Palestinian life that Palestinians themselves could recognise. These Palestinian filmmakers provided a vital, immediate response to geopolitical conversations that deliberately did not address them—a defining feature of Palestinian image-making. Mustapha Ali’s They Do Not Exist, one of the most significant Palestinian films ever made, is a direct response to Golda Meir’s speech in which she denies the reality of Palestinian lives. Inflected with the same sardonic tenor, titles of other films (With Soul and Blood, Children Nonetheless, No to the Surrender Option) also sought to respond to political statements or assumptions while addressing the Palestinian public. After Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, the archive containing the vast majority of these films went missing. But the need to create images that give meaning to Palestinian life did not.

-Nadia Awad, Nostalgia For the Future