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> Hanna Musleh
This Week in Palestine
A passionate Palestinian filmmaker and educator, one would think that a man like Hanna W. Musleh, who has accomplished so much, would not be so humble. But Musleh is one who embodies this modesty: his tone of voice is low, his demeanour serene, his shyness dignified and his friendliness noble.
Musleh was born in 1954 in Beit Jala to Wahbe and Nijmeh Musleh. During his youth he attended the Mennonite School in Beit Jala, and later went to study in Leningrad State University in Russia for a degree in anthropology, finally obtaining his M.A. from the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at Manchester University in England. Musleh then returned to Palestine and has worked as a professor at Bethlehem University since 1980 where he has taught cultural studies, history, anthropology and currently teaches film appreciation, anthropology of religion and philosophy.
For as long as he can remember, his dream was to make films. Although he went on to first study anthropology, his opportunity to make a documentary came about as part of the final project for his degree in visual anthropology. His first short film was called Sahar’s Wedding (1991), which chronicled a wedding in Al-Khader, a small village outside of Bethlehem under Israeli occupation during the first Intifada. Musleh went on to make several documentaries, each film dealing with different issues affecting Palestinian society. He likes his films to focus on Palestinian culture in particular, as there was a lack of films focusing on issues such as the role of women, physical disabilities in Palestine, and history. He wanted to give diverse people in Palestine a voice because they all play such an important role in the society and feels their voices should be heard as well. Those voices often go unnoticed because they belong to a society that is struggling for self-determination and self-rule. He likes his short segments of first-person accounts to touch people, to provoke his audience, to evoke different emotions and for the viewer to feel the Palestinian pain. Most importantly, Musleh wants to show the human side of the Palestinian people, including the real suffering of the ordinary people of the region.
This past year Musleh helped develop a series of debate shows at the International Centre of Bethlehem (ICB). He was the director of eleven debate shows that were broadcast live by eleven local television channels throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Each debate show depicted important and crucial topics in Palestinian society such as women and elections, disability, health issues and water.
His films have been shown at many festivals locally and internationally, including the Cairo International Festival for Children’s Cinema, which awarded him the Golden Award for a Short Film. The film depicts the life of Palestinian children who suffered permanent disabilities in the on-going violence in the Holy Land. His other films include We are God’s Soldiers, Palestinian Sign Language, I Am a Little Angel, In the Spider’s Web, and Walling
In Walling Out: A Bethlehem Story.
Musleh admits that his films are his greatest undertaking. They have been shown in the Middle East, Europe and at leading American universities such as Harvard and Georgetown, and they have been highly appraised. His short films are also used as part of the syllabus of different universities for film and visual anthropology classes.
Musleh is considered by many to be a compassionate person, a continuous learner, and an avid dreamer. In the future, he hopes to continue to produce films that make a difference. He feels that by documenting culture today it will be of great value tomorrow. He has already achieved this promise of educating others about the plight of the Palestinians and has contributed immensely to his country and community.
Musleh lives in Beit Jala with his Russian wife Lilia and their son Alexander.