Palestinian short film “Fatenah” is about to start the rounds of the world’s film festivals. The eponymous heroine (Fatenah) dreams of love and a normal life until she is diagnosed with cancer at which point she has to endure firstly inept and useless surgery in Gaza and then a humilitating and ultimately doomed series of attempts to access medical care outside Gaza.
Based on a true story, the film deals with the fatally poor medical treatment available to blockaded Gaza residents. Facilities are basic, supplies are scarce and skills are often poor. The film was made by an independent production company and funded by the World Health Organisation The producer Saed Andoni says: “Usually Palestinians are treated or are looked at as numbers. You know, you hear that five people were killed, 10 people were killed, 15 people were killed, two people were killed. But this is not the case. You know, the case is that behind each number there is a long story, and that’s why we focused on this one story and individual.” Talking about the fictitious love story in the film director Ahmad Habash says: “You know, when we talk about a love story and we are talking about a real person, we reach this sensitive issue. It’s not maybe sensitive for any other culture but you know in Palestinian culture, in Gaza, in a refugee camp, it’s not something forbidden or doesn’t happen. It happens every day, but when you expose a real character, and you make an unreal love story to it this is going to be be a little bit sensitive.” The film follows Fatenah as she desperately tries to cross the frontier in order to get medical help. As in the film, the true story ended with Fatenah’s death from cancer that was never properly treated in 2004. Animation was chosen as a way of softening the corners of a grim story set in an even more grim location. It also provided a way of using locations which are nigh-on impossible for Palestinians to access, like modern well-equipped Israeli hospitals.