First Hollywood film with Palestinian-American lead comes to NY (Please help)

Israel/Palestine
on 20 Comments

"Salt of the Sea," an excellent Palestinian film with rare Hollywood power behind it — the first ever with a Palestinian-American lead — is opening in New York this weekend.  It’s the story of a Palestinian woman from Brooklyn who travels to the Holy Land to reclaim what’s hers only to find past injustices still locked down and an occupation destroying the hopes of a new generation.  She and a Palestinian man — whose dream is to leave Palestine for good — set off on a madcap adventure to defy injustice, no matter the cost.

Nora, a filmmaker friend of mine, realized a couple of days ago that not nearly enough people knew about the film when you consider the caliber of the cast and production and the importance of the story.  She’s passionate about getting the Palestinian narrative to the American mainstream, so she’s launched a last-minute campaign to sell out the theater on opening weekend and make sure this Palestinian film, and future Palestinian films, are distributed as widely as possible.  If this film does well on its opening weekend, it means this film stays in theaters longer and future Palestinian films are thought of as box office draws rather than deficits.

Here is her appeal letter, which is being forwarded around to pro-justice groups in New York.  Feel free to forward it widely!

SALT OF THIS SEA (Milh Hadha al-Bahr), OPENS FRIDAY, AUGUST 13, IN NEW YORK CITY!

Exclusive Engagement at the Quad Cinema (34 West 13th St., near Union Square)

** SUHEIR HAMMAD IN PERSON FRIDAY AT 7:30! **

DAILY SHOWTIMES: 1:00, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:50
TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yMAWXLaEyA
QUAD CINEMA WEBSITE: http://www.quadcinema.com/now-playing
TICKET PURCHASE: http://www.movietickets.com/house_detail.asp?house_id=216&rdate=8%2F13%2F2010
PRESS RELEASE: Follows below

Dear Friends of Palestine:

Have you been waiting for a Hollywood-style film to reach out to the American voting public and tell a real story from Palestine — to describe from a personal point of view the history of dispossession, bring it into the present with searing images of the current reality of occupation, and set it in an engaging adventure?

This film has has arrived! Even if you can’t attend, PURCHASE A TICKET NOW TO SUPPORT “SALT OF THIS SEA!”

Opening in New York Friday, August 13, Salt of This Sea (Milh Hadha al-Bahr), is a wrenching, beautifully shot film from Palestine, produced by Hollywood strongman Danny Glover, directed by Tony-Award winning Palestinian-American filmmaker Anna Marie Jacir, and starring Brooklyn’s own Suheir Hammad. Now is the moment to support mainstreaming cinematic images of Palestine in America.

Why is this appeal reaching you less than 24 hours before the film’s opening? Salt of This Sea’s distributor apparently began asking organizations to partner with them for group sales just two days before opening night — far too late for effective outreach for most films — and Quad Cinema revealed that NOT ONE GROUP BLOCK OR ADVANCE TICKET HAS BEEN SOLD! Given the caliber of this film, we don’t know why this oversight occurred. But we must act now to remedy this missed marketing opportunity.

WHY IT’S CRITICAL TO SUPPORT THIS FILM AT THE BOX OFFICE OPENING WEEKEND

Monday morning after reviewing weekend box office sales, cinemas decide which films to keep in the theatre, and which to drop from the marquee. If Salt of This Sea does not sell more tickets that the other films at the Quad this weekend, it will be gone from the theatre in less than a week.

WHY DOES IT MATTER WHETHER A FILM FROM PALESTINE STAYS IN CINEMAS ANOTHER WEEK?

- It’s the difference between distributors viewing films from Palestine as "box office deficits" and "passing" on these films in the future vs. distributors viewing films from Palestine as commercially viable for American audiences, and seeking them out

- It’s the difference between dissemination of more negative stereotypes and false narratives vs. dissemination of realistic stories from Palestine, by Palestinian directors, portraying fully-realized characters

Why do American perceptions of Palestine matter? Because images form concepts, concepts influence voting habits, and voting habits influence American foreign policy, in support of Palestine – or not. I think we all know how the record stands now. Let’s take steps to change that!

HOW YOU CAN HELP KEEP SALT OF THIS SEA IN THE CINEMA

1. Even if you can’t attend the screening, PURCHASE A TICKET for this film at MovieTickets.com. Consider it a $12 donation to promote media from Palestine, about Palestine, and for Palestine.

2. If you can attend a screening this weekend, we have a deal with the Quad Cinema for "Mainstreaming Palestine" with which you can receive $8 tickets once we sell the first block of 10. Contact Nora at [email protected] if you’d like to be included in the first block of 10 to get this ball rolling.

3. Forward this to every individual and organization you know who is concerned about American media images of Palestine. (Press release follows below.)

4. Write Kino-Lorber Films and thank them for distributing Salt of This Sea. Ask them to bring more films from, about, and for Palestine, and remind them you’re voting for the media you want with your film ticket purchase.

5. Write or call the Quad Cinema, and thank them for booking Salt of This Sea at their cinema. The managing director is Eva Rode. Email: [email protected] Phone: (212) 225 2243.

TICKET PURCHASING STRATEGY

THE GOAL: SELL OUT FIVE SHOWS DAILY ON OPENING WEEKEND. The Quad Cinema hosts five screenings per day. Each screening holds 139 seats. To sell out every show this weekend we need to purchase 2085 tickets in total.

We can! If the USA to Gaza Flotilla fundraiser could sell out, if hundreds of people can sail on boats to Gaza with the goal of ending the blockade, if activists worldwide stand up to IDF bullets in the West Bank to defy land grabs and occupation, certainly we can click "Purchase ticket" from the comfort of our home to sell out Salt of This Sea opening weekend – and participate in the media battle for American public opinion.

Or, think of it this way: If Friends of the IDF can raise $120 million at a fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City in March 2010 – we MUST.

Salt of This Sea is a rare theatrical release with great potential to educate the American public about the real story in Palestine. The battle for Palestine begins with the media. Let’s start now!

_________________________________________________________________________

PRESS RELEASE:

SALT OF THIS SEA (Milh Hadha al-Bahr), DISTRIBUTED BY KINO-LORBER FILMS, USA

OPENS FRIDAY, AUGUST 13, IN NEW YORK CITY!
Exclusive Engagement at the Quad Cinema (34 West 13th St, near Union Square)

SUHEIR HAMMAD IN PERSON FRIDAY AT 7:30!

DAILY SHOWTIMES: 1:00, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:50
TRAILER
PURCHASE ADVANCE TICKETS

SALT OF THIS SEA

Annemarie Jacir’s politically charged feature debut is the story of Soraya (Tony Award winner Suheir Hammad), a Brooklyn-born woman who travels to Palestine to retrieve her grandfather’s savings, frozen in a Jaffa bank account after his 1948 exile. Struggling to feel at home in the land of her ancestors — and rebuffed by the country’s financial institutions — she meets Emad, a young Palestinian whose ambition, contrary to hers, is to leave forever. Tired of the constraints that dictate their lives, they devise a plan to reclaim what is theirs — whatever the consequences may be.

“Brilliant, emotional, intense and fresh… the kind of powerful film that stays with you long after you leave the theater. It profoundly moved me.” — Michael Moore

“Realized with verve, sincerity, and an unusual blend of documentary texture and theatrical energy.” — Richard Brody, The New Yorker

About Pamela Olson

Pamela Olson is the author of Fast Times in Palestine. She blogs here.

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20 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    August 13, 2010, 10:27 am

    I’ve seen a number of excellent Palestinian films. I’m not sure if this is the “first”.

    One advantage of independant films is that they can address the content/issues that they choose, in the degree of complexity and presentation as is desired.

    I hope the film is well-made, moving, informative. If engaging, I hope many see it, and discuss it thoroughly.

    • Chaos4700
      August 13, 2010, 11:06 am

      …but you won’t see it. Obviously.

      • DICKERSON3870
        August 13, 2010, 11:42 pm

        I encourage Netflix members to add this film to their DVD Queue (as have I). That will hopefully induce Netflix to acquire the DVD and make it available to it’s members.
        Salt of This Sea (Netflix listing) – link to netflix.com

      • DICKERSON3870
        August 14, 2010, 12:00 am

        P.S. You can also go to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and give it a high rating (10 is the highest). Only 166 people have rated it thus far, giving it a very respectable 6.6 average rating. You will need to register or ‘log in’ (unless you already have a “cookie”) before you can rate it.
        IMDB:Salt of This Sea (2008) – link to imdb.com

    • Sumud
      August 13, 2010, 9:37 pm

      ” I’m not sure if this is the “first”.”

      In your rush to post first, you forgot to read even the article title?

      Try now: “First Hollywood film with Palestinian-American lead comes to NY (Please help)”

      Well, not to worry. Richard, you are number one!

      • RoHa
        August 13, 2010, 11:38 pm

        Sumud,

        OT, but just to help you with your voting decision, there is this.

        link to theage.com.au

  2. Chaos4700
    August 13, 2010, 10:49 am

    Thanks for the heads up. I’d heard about this film and desperately wanted to see it but hadn’t had any sort of opportunity. Which is sort of a shame, I desperately wanted to use it for my final paper in my Migration and Visual Art film discussion class a couple semesters ago.

    Even though I have zero chance of making it to New York, I’ll be buying a ticket. I guess my one concern with that is buying up tickets but leaving empty seats in the theater, but I suppose I can explain what I’m doing when I contact the Quad Cinema to thank them for hosting this.

    • Pamela Olson
      August 13, 2010, 2:01 pm

      Thanks, Chaos! Looks like ticket sales have spiked thanks to my friend’s efforts. Great stuff, thanks for keeping the momentum going…

  3. Red
    August 13, 2010, 11:11 am

    Salt of the Sea is a wonderful film. My friend Saleh is the male lead in the film and is absolutely wonderful, as is Suhair Hammad. If you are in New York, please take the time to see the film, you will not regret it!

  4. Chu
    August 13, 2010, 11:47 am

    Thanks for the tip. Maybe I’ll see you there, Pamela.
    I will be wearing my ‘free witty’ t-shirt.
    another film, The Lemon Tree, appeared out of-the-blue on Netflix instant-watch, which normally doesn’t have Palestinian p-o-v’s represented.
    It’s the story of a woman whose lemon groves, passed down to her from her father, are being razed because the Israeli defense minister has decided he wants to take up residency in the West Bank border. The lemon grove becomes a ‘security threat’ and so the tale ensues.

    • LeaNder
      August 14, 2010, 10:18 am

      Lemon Tree, an Israeli production, was mentioned in almost every review I read of Salt of these sea over here in Germany as the better movie

      Our dear friend RW may not have watched it, but the web already told him that this may not be “first”, a recurring theme in German reviews too. If someone here will watch it. I’d appreciate a short note.

      Apart from the comparison with Lemon tree, what sticked out for me in the critique here in Germany that Jacir didn’t succeed in creating “round” characters, a theme repeated in this Cannes review,

      And it also doesn’t help that she’s essentially looking for a fight; she goes to her grandfather’s old bank, for example, to close out his account from 60 years ago. She’s informed the account’s gone; she insists that the bank is still there, so she has a right to the money. The bank manager is firm, polite, and realistic: “There’s really no need for stunts and dramatic stories. …” It’s advice that writer-director Jacir would have done well to take to heart. Meeting up with Emad (Saleh Bakri, who excelled as the sleepy-eyed trumpet player in The Band’s Visit), a Palestinian who’d like nothing more than to leave Palestine, Soraya eventually decides to make her own kind of withdrawal to even the score — and holds up a bank for the amount of her grandfather’s account, plus interest. The crime spree becomes a whirlwind tour, with stops including Soraya’s ancestral home (now occupied by an Israeli woman as clueless as she is sympathetic) and the ruins of a long-abandoned village where the two essentially play house for a while.

      Hmmm “archetypal Cannes co-financing” and missing “character development”?

      In many ways, Salt of this Sea is an archetypal Cannes film; extensively co-financed (I counted 17 different funding agencies in the opening credits, which is both impressive and terrifying to contemplate), sincerely principled and a little inert. Soraya’s righteous fury doesn’t leave much room for character or change or humanity; she’s a symbol, not a person, and the film feels hollow because of that. There are gorgeous moments in Salt of this Sea — the area’s beautiful spaces and shattered rubble are both exquisitely shot — and the few rare moments of real human behavior (the universality of a call from mom, a bank teller on the make) are good enough to make you wish there were more of them.

  5. annie
    August 13, 2010, 12:13 pm

    the leading actress suheir hammad is the spitting image of lubna masarwa of EJ whom i took a workshop from @the sabeel conference. she was also extensively interviewed for her recollections of being on the mavi marmara (at link) although understandably she was looking a tad worn out in these videos.

    i look forward to seeing the film on the west coast.

  6. Taxi
    August 13, 2010, 12:23 pm

    Hey bring it over to lalaland where I live and I’ll be there!

    In the meantime, I think I can afford to purchase a ticket per day for five days in a row – just for the heck of it!

    Congrats to all the movie people! Palestine Rules!

  7. Oscar Romero
    August 13, 2010, 12:29 pm

    I’m on the west coast and there’s no way I can get to NY to see the film. But I liked the idea of buying a ticket, so I did. If you are going to do it, save a couple bucks and buy a senior ticket.

  8. Avi
    August 13, 2010, 1:55 pm

    I heard about this movie a while ago when it was in the production stage. It’s nice to see it finally making its debut. I seem to recall that the heroine in the film returns to Jaffa where her family had a house. So, that ought to add fascinating historical and cultural depth to the story.

  9. MHughes976
    August 13, 2010, 2:56 pm

    Apparently it will be opening in the UK on Oct.15. I will make an effort to see it, though we’ll see if major newspapers review it and if it gets out of the very narrow confines in which non-popular films are usually kept. I expect it will be rather harrowing.

  10. Nigel Parry
    August 13, 2010, 7:54 pm

    If the USA to Gaza Flotilla fundraiser could sell out, if hundreds of people can sail on boats to Gaza with the goal of ending the blockade, if activists worldwide stand up to IDF bullets in the West Bank to defy land grabs and occupation, certainly we can click “Purchase ticket” from the comfort of our home to sell out Salt of This Sea opening weekend – and participate in the media battle for American public opinion

    I’m sorry. After a film distributor/PR team screwed up, it seems inappropriate to ask people in other cities around the country to take up the slack as an expression of “activism”. It seems particularly manipulative that this “activism” is being solicited as ‘the least we could do’ compared to people facing “IDF bullets in the West Bank” and the martyrs of the Mavi Marmara.

  11. Joseph Glatzer
    August 14, 2010, 12:46 am

    I think it’s also starting in Los Angeles soon. Any info anyone has on that would be appreciated. Good job getting the word out there Pamela, this is important work you’re doing, humanizing the dehumanized Palestinian image in America is crucial to achieving justice.

  12. lauradurkay
    August 24, 2011, 6:45 pm

    Hmm, I don’t know if anyone will read a comment on a post that’s a year old, but I stumbled across this when Googling “Palestinian characters in American film.”

    Salt of This Sea is a brilliant film and you should all buy it now that it’s finally–FINALLY–available on DVD in the US. It’s not accurate to call it a Hollywood film, however. It was shot in Palestine with money scraped together from various European, Arab, and other independent financing sources. It screened at Cannes–in 2008. It’s won award after award in international film festivals, yet Annemarie had to struggle for YEARS to get any kind of distribution in the US. That’s how hard you have to fight if you’re an independent, female, Palestinian filmmaker.

    Oh and for the record, I bought two solidarity tickets for opening weekend even though I was in Baltimore, because I’m a filmmaker and I know opening weekend grosses count, and because I loved the film and wanted to support it.

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